Death of a major composer

Death of a major composer


norman lebrecht

July 28, 2016

Finnish media report the death during the night of Einojuhani Rautavaara, at the age of 87.

The most widely performed Finnish symphonist after Sibelius, Rautavaara led the trend away from serialism with naturalistic, environmental works such as his Cantus Arcticus concerto for taped birdsong and orchestra (1972) and his flute concerto, Dances with Winds (1975).

His eight symphonies were recorded several times over and are frequently performed.

In a Slipped Disc poll of which composers would be performed half a century from now, he ranked among the top five.

The son of Eino Rautavaara, a founding bass at Finnish Opera, he was sent to finish his studies at Juilliard and Tanglewood, where he was impressed by Aaron Copland. He taught for most of his life at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki. Of his eight operas, Vincent – on the life and death of Vincent Van Gogh – gained international exposure.

A reserved, phlegmatic man, Rautavaara composed as he pleased, joining no cliques or fads.

First obituary here.

rautavaara ashkenazy


  • Someone says:

    RIP Enio and your neo-romantic/pseudo-romantic/romantic-ajoutee kind of music! It wasn’t bad, it wasn’t music of our times, it was kind of beautiful..

  • Gaffney Feskoe says:

    RIP. My favorite piece by him is a relatively short piece for piano which he titled “Clouds”.

  • Martin Anderson says:

    Here’s my 1996 interview with him:

  • Robert von Bahr says:

    Interesting that Norman would mention the Flute Concerto from 1975. It is a work, with which I feel particularly at home, since it was I, who commissioned it (and paid for out of my own pocket). It is dedicated to my first wife, Gunilla, who premièred it in the Nordic Music Days in Reykjavík, Iceland, but never recorded it. Composed for a flautist with all four flutes, from piccolo to bass flute in C, it is an intensely personal work, setting many moods, all very typically Finnish. It was later re-written as a version for a flautist without the rare bass flute, using “only” the upper three.
    As chance had it, Sharon Bezaly von Bahr recorded it (both versions!) and I had the immense pleasure of presenting the brand new SACD:s to Einojuhani a couple of months ago. He was then in a rather bad shape and had difficulties in talking, but there was no hiding away the fact that he immensely enjoyed the record and the about one-hour long visit from a friend that went back over 40 years.

    Robert von Bahr

  • In case anyone is wondering why Einojuhani is pictured with my father, seeing as Norman makes no mention of it, see here:

    Thanks again, Norman.