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Einojuhani Rautavaara Biography

Einojuhani Rautavaara

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Born: 1928. Died: 2016. Lived in: Helsinki, Finland.

Einojuhani Rautavaara is internationally one of the best known and most frequently performed Finnish composers. He is by nature a romantic, even a mystic, as is often apparent from the titles of his works: for example Angels and Visitations for orchestra or his double-bass concerto Angel of Dusk. Despite Rautavaara's label of "mysticism" he is a complex and contradictory figure whose works cannot be categorized in stylistic terms.

At the age of seventeen Rautavaara began studying the piano and later went on to study musicology at Helsinki University and composition at the Sibelius Academy. From 1951-53 he was a pupil of Aarre Merikanto receiving his diploma in composition in 1957. In 1955 the Koussewitzky Foundation awarded Jean Sibelius a scholarship in honour of his 90th birthday to enable a young Finnish composer of his choice to study in the United States. Sibelius selected Rautavaara who spent two years studying with Vincent Persichetti at the Juilliard School of Music in New York and also took part in the summer courses at Tanglewood given by Roger Sessions and Aaron Copland. In 1957 Rautavaara continued his studies with Wladimir Vogel in Ascona, Switzerland and a year later with Rudolf Petzold in Cologne. Rautavaara has taught and lectured at the Sibelius Academy as the professor of composition. Since 1988 he has made his living as a composer in Helsinki.

Rautavaara's earliest works revealed close ties to tradition but also his desire to renew it. They were followed by an extreme constructivist and avant-garde phase (as in the serially organized fourth symphony "Arabescata", 1962) after which Rautavaara turned to hyper-romanticism and finally mysticism. Since the early 1980s, Rautavaara has adopted a sort of post-modern musical language in which modern and traditional elements of varying degrees of constructivism or freedom are combined with one another.

Rautavaara has composed eight symphonies, the most frequently performed of them being the Angel of Light, his seventh symphony. Symphony No. 8, The Journey was premiered in April 2000 by The Philadelphia Orchestra under Wolfgang Sawallisch. Other important groups of works include concertos for different solo instruments, among them the three piano concertos, the popular Violin Concerto (1977), the Harp Concerto (2000) and the Clarinet Concerto (2001-02). Rautavaara has also written a large body of chamber music as well as choral and vocal works including All-Night Vigil for a cappella chorus. One of Rautavaara's most popular works is Cantus arcticus, concerto for birds and orchestra, in which the straightforward orchestral part is juxtaposed with the sounds of birds recorded by the composer himself.