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Title: Upholding a modernist mentality : experimentalism and neo-tonality in the symphonies of Einojuhani Rautavaara
Author: Burton, Owen
ISNI:       0000 0004 9356 7662
Awarding Body: University of York
Current Institution: University of York
Date of Award: 2020
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Einojuhani Rautavaara (1928-2016) is one of the most significant Finnish composers to emerge after Sibelius, and his music has been highly acclaimed for its originality and accessibility. After experimenting with modernism in the 1960s, his more approachable recent style has often been misunderstood. This thesis will consider this music, and re-consider terms describing it, such as “mystical”, “neo-Romantic” and “postmodern”, which are used in a variety of music criticism and in some biographical accounts. As such, it offers a new understanding of Rautavaara’s idiom, its larger significance, and its relationship with broader, historical trends within the Long Twentieth Century. This thesis addresses the larger, integrated role of modernism in Rautavaara’s music within the multi-stylistic context of contemporary composition. Modernism is examined both in technical, stylistic terms as well as a more general mentality of progress, arguing that both definitions have informed Rautavaara’s recent music more than has been acknowledged. After considering modernism in its broadest terms and in the more specific Finnish context, the thesis draws on the concepts of “reactive modernism” (J.P.E. Harper-Scott) and the “moderate mainstream” (Arnold Whittall) to argue that, in the late-twentieth century, Rautavaara continues an individualistic, critical approach that did not reject either “modern” or “anachronistic” techniques. Musical analyses focussing on the eight symphonies, several of which have received no previous detailed discussion, support a new contextualisation of Rautavaara’s entire symphonic cycle as a major pillar of his output. These analytical chapters work inwards from differing experiences of global form, to surface-level thematic processes, to melodic and harmonic processes, in particular how Rautavaara reconciles dodecaphonic and tonal thinking. Issues of symmetry and duality occur throughout. From these close readings, contextual discussion assesses Rautavaara’s legacy, focusing on his mentorship of younger Finnish composers, as well as determining common and recurring compositional features.
Supervisor: Howell, Tim Sponsor: Arts and Humanities Research Council ; White Rose College of the Arts and Humanities
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available