Rautavaara is a modern composer accessible to anyone, but without sacrificing musical interest. The three compositions on this disc are a good introduction to his work. The closest "big name" musical kin I can think of would be Sibelius, but Rautavaara's work is more mystical in conception. He is very much his own composer, and his musical personality is well represented here.
The violin concerto is more overtly dramatic than many of Rautavaara's compositions, but never vulgar, and the solo part is played with beauty and fire by Elmar Oliveira.
"Isle of Bliss" is an orchestral fantasia lasting just a little over 11 minutes. After a strong beginning it goes a bit formless in the middle (somewhat of a weak point with this composer; he tends to sag a bit structurally at times) but masterfully evokes a strong sense of atmosphere throughout. Listening to it, I felt as though I was walking the chilly, rocky coastline of a secluded island, and as it turns out a remote Baltic Sea island was the composer's inspiration for the piece (as he himself explains in the excellent booklet notes).
"Angels and Visitations" is another work in this composer's self-titled "Angel Series," but as usual it's no new-age orchestral puff piece. As he explains in the booklet, it was inspired by a terrible recurring dream he had as a child. It stirs up a strong sense of drama, effectively mixing beauty, terror and awe throughout its nearly 20-minute length.
Not quite an hour of music, excellently recorded as is usually the case with Ondine. Leif Segerstam obviously believes in this music and leads the orchestra through some of the most effective Rautavaara performances on record. I play this one often and would recommend it to anyone interested in Rautavaara or in approachable, interesting new music.