Einojuhani Rautavaara
Finnish Composer
Born 9 Oct 1928

Rautavaara was born in Helsinki. His father was an opera singer and church cantor and his mother a physician, but both died when he was young, and the war meant his musical education didn't start until he was 17. Despite his late start, Rautavaara became a highly accomplished composer and teacher, spending many years in the USA, and became one of the most notable international composers of the late 20th century.

His 'Cantus arcticus' - a work for strings and taped bird calls which perfectly evoked the eerie world of endless white, blue and dusk is the most extrordarily evocative piece and was a "classical hit" after being recommended and played by David Mellor on Classic FM.

A series of beautiful and accessible works on the theme of angels (but not in the Biblical sense) brought him to the attention of many CD buyers outside the normal classical range.

His Symphony No 6 'Vincentiana', evoking the atmosphere of van Gogh's later works, combines unearthly sounds of a synthesiser with conventional orchestral textures; it and the Symphony No 7, the recent Piano Concerto No 3, and any of his 'Angel' works, are all instantly rewarding listening.

His recent music is sombre and meditative, often using beautiful slow dark 'night-music' string chords, but unfortunately he follows so many other modern composers like Taverner in feeling the need to intersperse strident passages.


Rautavaara's Symphony No 8, 'Journey', was originally released only on the Internet, perhaps the first major work by a classical composer to be made available in only this way. It is fortunately now available on CD.

Serendipity of the Alphabet