Rautaavara "Missa a cappella" – “One Epic Concert”

Einojuhani Rautavaara. Kuva: Ari Korkala/Fimic.  
Einojuhani Rautavaara, Photo: Ari Korkala  

One of the oldest and most prestigious music festivals in Britian, the Cheltenham Music Festival, is known for premieres of contemporary music. This year's program was no exception. On Thursday, July 5, 2012, the BBC Singers, under the direction of David Hill, performed "one epic concert" (The Times, London) with five premieres in one night. It was Soli Deo Gloria's privilege to be the sponsor of one of the five, the UK prmiere of Missa a Capella by Einojuhani Rautavaara.



Described as “the highlight of the evening” (Alexandra Hamilton-Ayres, BachTrack.com), Rautaavara’s Mass has been forty years in the making:

"Originally, the idea to commission this Mass came from Father Arthur Bridge in Australia, an important patron of the arts who has been integral in the creation of over a hundred pieces of music ... He approached me with the idea of commissioning a Mass ...

"I had already composted an Orthodox Vigil, and so it seemed natural to follow this with a Catholic Mass. And the idea to compose the piece was welcome - in fact, I had already planned to write a Mass forty years ago. Having already composed the most difficult part - the Credo with its long lists - I was happy to be given the chance to write the rest."—Rautavaara's program notes


  Cheltenham College Chapel

The 2011 world premiere performance of the Missa a cappella, by the Netherlands Radio Choir at Jacobikerk, Utrecht, Netherlands, was received with a standing ovation, and the audience for the UK premiere at Cheltehnam College Chapel was equally enthusiastic:


"The highlight was a new Missa a Capella by Einojuhani Rautavaara. Sweeping solo lines, pulsing backgrounds, tonal (often root-position) harmonies and rich textures: the ingredients are old-fashioned, yet the 84-year-ol Finn melds them into something fresh and striking."—Richard Morrison, The Times (London)



The Missa a cappella is 23-minute setting of the Mass for mixed choir in six sections: Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Benedictus, Agnus Dei


Future premiers of Rautaavara's Missa a cappella are scheduled by the Sydney Philharmonia Chamber Singers (Syndey, Australia, October 2012), RIAS Kammerchor (Berlin, Germany, April 2013), the Swedish Radio Choir (TBA). Soli Deo Gloria hopes to arrange a U.S. premiere.

Einojuhani Rautavaara is the leading Finnish composer of his generation and well-known for works inspired metaphysical and religious subjects. His compositional opus includes eight symphonies, twelve concertos, nine operas and chamber operas (including Rasputin and The Gift of the Magi), along with a great body of vocal, orchestral, chamber, piano and choral music. Many of his works are inspired by metaphysical and religious subjects, including his “best-selling” Symphony No.7 (Angel of Light)(1995).

For more on Rautavaara’s style and approach to music, read Peter Bannister’s blog post, “Into the Mystic—Einojuhani Rautavaara.”


"It is my belief that music is great if, at some moment, the listener catches 'a glimpse of eternity through the window of time'"—Einojunhani Rautaavara