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Rautavaara: Vigilia - Schweckendiek

Rautavaara: Vigilia - Schweckendiek

BIS  BIS-2422

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Vocal


Rautavaara: Viglia

Niall Chorell (tenor)
Tuukka Haapaniemi (bass)
Helsinki Chamber Choir
Nils Schweckendiek (conductor)


In 1971, Einojuhani Rautavaara was asked to compose a Finnish Orthodox church service, an all-night vigil similar to that of Rachmaninov, comprising Vespers as well as Matins. Soon after the first performance he reshaped the music into what we now know as Vigilia, a concert version forming a musical whole. As his inspiration, Rautavaara has himself described a visit to the Valamo monastery in the middle of Lake Ladoga in 1939: ‘The bells began to ring, low-pitched booms and higher, shrill clinks: the world was filled with sounds and colours…’

The music is marked by dark colours, the heady smell of incense and the crepuscular church lit only by small candles. Divided into two parts, Vespers and Matins, the 70-minute work consists of 34 sections, and features prominent parts for a bass and a tenor soloist, as well as a number of solo voices emerging from the mixed choir. The work is enriched by the constantly changing combinations of choir and soloists, the perspective shifting from the personal to the universal. It is here performed by the 21-strong Helsinki Chamber Choir, under its artistic director Nils Schweckendiek – a team that has made several recordings for BIS in recent years. These include Riemuitkaamme!, a Christmas disc (‘Schweckendiek’s immaculately blended singers make a glorious noise’, The Arts Desk), as well as a two-disc survey of the choral works of Finnish modernist Erik Bergman (‘The Helsinki choir produces a radiant sound throughout’, Choir & Organ).

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PCM recording

Recorded in August 2018 at Järvenpää Church, Järvenpää, Finland, 24/96

Recording producer and sound engineer: Nora Brandenburg

Executive producer: Robert Suff
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Comment by Jan Arell - September 27, 2019 (1 of 1)

A most remarkable recording. I had never before heard any choral music of the Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara (1928-2016), but I am very fond of his orchestral music which in my opinion belongs to the very, very best of late 1900 music. Rautavaara had a way of dissolving atonal chords into another atonal chord and make this extremely beautiful, in a way that, among contemporaries, maybe only Arvo Pärt or Valentin Silvestrov can. It's sometimes like Richard Strauss but many decades later. (I'm in deep waters now, English not being my first language)
This is very much recommended for any friend of late 20th century choral music, of choral music anyhow, of good SACD recordings and of, well, music. It's one of the most fascinating recordings I have bought in the last few years (from Eclassical).

I wrote to the admins of this site a week ago, but they still haven't corrected the title of this disc. It's Virgilia, based on the Russian Orthodox morning prayers; they omitted a few letters in the middle. Makes it hard to search for this disc.