This is a highly attractive collection of modern Finnish choral music. Compared to that of some of his Baltic contemporaries, Rautavaara's music may come across as a bit subdued; however, it must also be described as highly expressive, often ethereal, and sometimes downright beautiful. For me, the feature work, Missa a Cappella, was the hero of the collection. It was also the most recent composition, having been completed in 2010. I really love what has happened to modern choral music over the past 10 years or so, especially during the past five. It seems as though so many composers, even those in their 60's and 70's, have finally broken free of many of the rigid constraints imposed by the mid 20th century (1950-1990) modernists music czars. Composers seem much more interested in accessibility, beauty, and expressiveness, not just modernists rules and sensibilities. I am very pleased with the change. I have heard some critics complain that this transition cheapens classical music by pandering to the contemporary pop crowd. We all know that pop music fans do not and will not listen to this material, well, perhaps a few. I my view, that complaint arises from the fact that many "classical" listeners seek and enjoy this new stuff - it is actually somewhat "popular" - something that supporters of the former "modern" music could never lay claim to. Then again, perhaps I'm just full of it.
Anyway, other than as a young composer, Rautavaara evaded or circumvented many of the most rigid compositional rules of the period, so his music has always tended toward beauty and accessibility. The music on this CD is no exception. Track# 9-11 (Missa Duodecanonica) is a serialist work; however, it is so brief and nicely done that it offers a highly digestible taste of music of that genre. Track # 12, "Ave Maria, gratia plena", from 1978, is a 5 minute stretch of gentle, mystic beauty, which could have been written last year. Many of us who love modern choral music, especially in the "sacred" vein, insist on finding expressiveness and beauty in our music, and this collection does not disappoint.
As always with the Latvian Radio Choir under Sigvards Clava, the performances are gorgeous and radiant. One couldn't ask for more. The sound is excellent.
So if you love very modern choral music - like that of Miskinis, Vasks, Gjeilo, Esenvalds, Lauridsen, and Whitacre, you'll undoubtedly appreciate this collection.