Tone Poem Tuesday

I suppose we’ll just go ahead and make “Autumnal Classical Music” the theme of the month here, since I’ve already done “Spooky or Scary Classical Music” in previous years. There will probably be a little overlap, but I’ll try to avoid it.

Einojuhani Rautavaara (1928-2016) was a Finnish composer, likely the most prominent Finnish composer since Jean Sibelius. He was a prolific composer, writing many orchestral works, operas, chamber works, and other pieces, often in a “neo-romantic” style that at times borders on pure mysticism in a way that reminds me of Alan Hovhaness.

Today’s work, “Autumn Gardens”, is a three-movement work for orchestra that reflects Rautavaara’s passion for gardening and how he saw gardening as a metaphor for composing. In his words:

“I have often compared composing to gardening. In both processes, one observes and controls organic growth rather than constructing or assembling existing components and elements. I would also like to think that my compositions are rather like ‘English gardens’, freely growing and organic, as opposed to those that are pruned to geometric precision and severity”.

“The title is derived from a passage in the libretto of my opera ‘The House of the Sun’: ‘…like a butterfly in the garden of black autumn…’ The motif to which these words are sung is used as the theme for the variations of the first movement. It’s texture grows and becomes denser by degrees. The second slow movement, rhythmically and dynamically placid, follows without a pause. The third movement starts off vivacious and brisk, but autumn is a time of leaves falling, of colours, and death, and so soon becomes a solemn dance, perhaps a sarabande in honour of the dying splendour of summer, or as T.S. Eliot said, ‘late roses filled with early snow’.”

The piece is stormy at times, tranquil at others, sometimes warm and sometimes quite cold. Not unlike autumn itself.

Here is “Autumn Gardens” by Einojuhani Rautavaara.


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