Rautavaara: Works for Cello & Piano - Tanja Tetzlaff, Gunilla Süssmann
Rautavaara – a profound journey through shadow and light [extract from booklet] Once in a while, we freelance musicians encounter a rare and unexpected privilege such as a special request that catches our attention in a unique way. This is what happened when the Ondine label asked us to record the works for cello and piano by Einojuhani Rautavaara, who would have celebrated his 90th birthday this year.Read more…
Having made music together for 17 years, we have developed something of a symbiotic bond in musical language and preferences: a mutual expression fostered by a journey with German, Scandinavian, Russian and French music, combined with deep and lifelong friendship.
Rautavaara’s music surprised us with how violently it struck us. We were both enormously attracted to its mysterious melancholy and its sustained and relentless pain and anger, combined with a feather-light beauty and caressing sensuality. We felt a vocation to perform this music.
The pieces are also very different from one another, ranging from the wonderful romantic vistas of the first sonata to the brutal, extrovert outbursts of the second sonata. Then there are the harmless and almost neo-classical preludes and fugues, and the Polska – where Tanja plays a duet with herself (the piece being originally written for 2 celli and piano) – which felt like bashing our favourite toys to pieces: it seems funny and hilarious, but at the same time very bitter and disillusioned.
Both emotionally and physically, Rautavaara’ s music makes you push your limits. It is extremely unpredictable in the sense that he keeps you within a certain mood or atmosphere just long enough for you to settle in and then suddenly throws you into a totally different world. Still, everything is ingeniously organic, so that the abruptness comes across as something immediate and unfiltered, something genuine and raw.
The recording process in Sendesaal in Bremen was extremely intense. Unlike with Beethoven or Mozart, where you have to be prepared in very specialised technical ways and there are conscious and unconscious references influencing you from all angles, with Rautavaara there is a very forceful and demanding nakedness. No references. Nowhere to hide. A direct way of asking the most of you in an emotional and physical way without the fine filters that sometimes protect you from going insane. In some ways, his music melted with our energies like a subconscious omen of what was to come.
You see, shortly after the recording Gunilla was diagnosed with focal dystonia in her right hand, and as of now it is unclear if she will ever play her instrument again. It has been a horribly hard time for us as a musical ensemble, an impossible amputation of the most intimate way of communicating, expressing and imagining. But music, having been at the core of our relationship for so many years, has brought us very close together as human beings, and this bond is unbreakable.
A CD is in some way a postcard home from a long journey. Perhaps this Rautavaara recording is also a testament. A deep sorrow accompanies that fact. Still, the fact that we were allowed to dive into this amazing music together, to rip out our hearts and souls and to breathe this extreme language, leaves us with an overwhelming feeling of love and freedom.
Rautavaara’s music will forever mean something very special to us, and we are extremely proud and grateful for this release.
Tanja & Gunilla