The Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara died last year at the ripe old age of 87. The New York Times described him as “the greatest Finnish composer since Sibelius”. Indeed, his late work has more than a passing resemblance to Sibelius, who initially arranged for the young composer to study in the USA. “I had to go to America to discover I was European”, Rautavaara wrote. This concert represented a timely tribute, and contained some of the loveliest music I have heard live, ever.

Sibelian textures, particularly the use of flutes, are a prominent feature of Rautavaara’s orchestral palette, as are full string chords reminiscent of Vaughan Williams. His harmony is freely tonal, and while much of his music strives to create an otherworldly mood, it is not without lively passages and dramatic moments of great power.

The concert began with the composer’s hit piece of 1972 (the equivalent of his Planets), a Concerto for Birds and Orchestra, Canticus Arcticus. Birdcalls are imitated by the woodwind and brass – two flutes begin the piece in a long solo – but a recording of real birds is played as well. In writing the piece, Rautavaara journeyed to the Northern marshes of Finland with...

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