Cantus Arcticus

Finland's senior composer was a student and heir apparent to the great Jean Sibelius, to whom he is inevitably compared whenever he spins out one of his trademark long, Romantic melodies. In the '60s, Rautavaara began experimenting with tape and electronic sounds, and in 1972 he created the remarkable Cantus Arcticus, a concerto where the soloist wasn't human, and wasn't even live. Using tapes of arctic birds that he recorded in northern Finland, he wrote a three-movement concerto where the orchestral music seems to grow organically out of the birdsongs. Winds are asked to retune a bit to accommodate the birds' tuning; melodies take flight majestically and reappear later in slightly altered form, as if returning from a long journey. 
Einojuhani Rautavaara
Cantus Arcticus
Concerto for Birds and Orchestra, Op. 61 (1972)
Lahti Symphony Orchestra
Osmo Vänskä
Label: BIS
Catalogue No: BIS-CD-1038


I. Suo (The Bog) (6:39)
II. Melankolia (Melancholy) (4:05)
III. Joutsenet muuttavat (Swans Migrating) (6:59)
Subtitled Concerto for Birds and Orchestra it incorporates tape recordings of birdsong recorded near the Arctic Circle and on the bogs of Liminka in northern Finland.

The work is in three movements: The bog opens with a flute duet, after which the other woodwinds join in, followed by the birds. The second movement, Melancholy, features a slowed-down recording of the song of the shore lark. The final movement, Swans migrating, takes the form of a long crescendo for orchestra, with the sounds of whooper swans, before both birdsong and orchestra fade, as if into the distance.

Cantus Arcticus was commissioned by the University of Oulu for its first doctoral degree ceremony.

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