Towards the Light - Helsinki Chamber Choir

CD Spotlight

A Sense and Taste for the Infinite

Choral music by Rautavaara, Wennäkoski and Livorski

'For those who love contemporary choral singing, this disc should prove a real revelation ...'


This CD has many interesting features, not least the pairing of two Finnish composers with an Italian and two female ones with a male. So the mixture, to my mind, is not only original but stimulating.

Born in Helsinki, Einojuhani Rautavaara (1928-2016) was the son of an opera singer and a local medical practitioner. He lost both parents before he reached adulthood, something that left a scar in his soul until his death, so it is no wonder that much of his music is a search for the spiritual and mystic nature of our existence.

Rautavaara began work on the Missa a cappella in March 2009, and the premiere took place in November 2011 in Utrecht, Holland. The work is indeed a voyage towards man's eternal destiny, and in it, the composer not only avoids monotony through the constant variation of the musical texture, but by adopting counterpoint of polyphonic lines and rhythmic animation of sonorous harmonic blocks, Rautavaara is able to create a sense and taste for the infinite.

Listen — Einojuhani Rautavaara: Gloria (Missa a cappella)
(track 2, 0:00-0:47) © 2018 ICSM Records :

The album also includes Rautavaara's short but delightful Our Joyful'st Feast, commissioned by the Helsinki Chamber Choir to be performed at the EBU Christmas Concert some years back from the composition of the Missa. The composer decided to set texts by two Renaissance English poets, two extracts from Shakespeare and a section from an extensive Christmas poem by the bard's contemporary George Wither. A true Christmas treat this, full of joy, peace and light.

Listen — Einojuhani Rautavaara: Our Joyful'st Feast
(track 8, 0:00-1:00) © 2018 ICSM Records :

Born in 1970, Lotta Wennäkoski also hails from Finland, but her musical language is very different to that of her compatriot. Word play, the compositional potential inherent in the different meanings of words, sounds materialising from their respective vowels and consonants, their rhythm, context and content are all under the microscope for a fresh appraisal.

The two works on this recording, Ommel (Stitch) and Valossa (In the Light), are precisely in this mould and particularly in Ommel, five languages are used: Hungarian, French, Japanese, Russian and, of course, English.

Listen — Lotta Wennäkoski: Ommel
(track 9, 6:57-7:53) © 2018 ICSM Records :

The mood changes completely in Lamenti by Italian composer Paola Livorsi (born 1967). This work is based on the traditional 'lamento', which in the madrigals and arias of the Renaissance and Baroque expresses an often uncontrolled outburst of grief over the death of a close relative or friend. In this case Livorsi's 'lamento' is dedicated to the memory of composer Christophe Bertrand, who took away his own life in the Autumn of 2010, aged only twenty-nine.

Listen — Paola Livorsi: Lamenti
(track 10, 18:28-19:20) © 2018 ICSM Records :

For those who love contemporary choral singing, this disc should prove a real revelation, but those with more traditional tastes should proceed with caution. Performances, sound and presentation are of enviable standards.

Copyright © 4 May 2019 Gerald Fenech,
Gzira, Malta



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