World premiere of new Mass by Einojuhani Rautavaara


Finnish composer
Einojuhani Rautavaara
Photo: Ari Korkala

A notable event took place on November 25, 2011, in the Netherlands. The Jacobikerk in Utrecht was the site of the world premiere of a new 25-minute choral work, Missa a cappella, by Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara, performed by the internationally renowned Netherlands Radio Choir.

The event is notable for several reasons, the first and foremost being that a new large-scale work by Rautavaara, the leading Finnish composer of his generation, is a major event in itself. The Mass, which has been forty years in gestation (he wrote the Credo in 1972), not only has intrinsic value but also constitutes something of a spiritual testament. It was received with a standing ovation, with the choir repeating the beautiful Agnus Dei as an encore.

You can hear the complete work on Radio 4, which is broadcasting it for three months. Though the Radio 4 site is in Dutch, non-Dutch speaking audiences can easily navigate.


TO HEAR THE MISSA A CAPELLA: Once you are on the Radio 4 site, move your cursor over the conductor's picture on the left of the screen. (If you don't see a conductor, you may need to download Microsoft SilverLight. It's free and only takes a minute - and it’s worth it to hear the music!) A slider will appear which will allow you to cue up the audio. Drag your cursor to 1:33:40, which is where the Kyrie begins.

Soli Deo Gloria’s Associate Artistic Director, Peter Bannister, was able to travel to Utrecht for the premiere and reported that it is “a very substantial work . . . from one of the most intriguing composers of sacred music working today.” You can read more on Peter Bannister’s blog post, “Into the Mystic.”

An additional reason why this Mass is so notable is the fact that it was commissioned by a consortium: Netherlands Radio Choir, Swedish Radio Choir, the Sydney Philharmonia Chamber Singers and the Cheltenham Festival. This means that it is assured of at least six performances and a broadcast/webcast in diverse geographical areas.

The third significance, especially for Soli Deo Gloria, is the upcoming UK premiere, of which SDG is a co-sponsor. In July 2012, the Missa a cappella will be sung by the BBC Singers at the Cheltenham Music Festival, one of the most prestigious music festivals in the UK.


If you’d like to learn more about Einojuhani Rautavaara, visit his publisher, Boosey & Hawkes. Rautavaara’s best-selling recording is Symphony No.7 (Angel of Light) (Ondine),  one of his popular choral works is Vigilia, and his opera Kaivos has just been nominated for a Grammy. His symphonies and concerti have increasingly been commissioned by orchestras outside his native Finland, including Symphony No.8 ‘The Journey’ for the Philadelphia Orchestra, a Harp Concerto for the Minnesota Orchestra and a Clarinet Concerto for Richard Stoltzman and the National Symphony in Washington. His style combines modernism with mystical romanticism, and he is inspired by metaphysical and religious subjects.

“It is my belief that music is great if, at some moment, the listener catches ‘a glimpse of eternity through the window of time’ ” —Einojuhani Rautaavara