Andrew Ford (b. 1957)

Rauha (2009)
for wind and brass, percussion, keyboards and double basses

For centuries the magnificent rapids on the Vuoksi river at Imatra in south-eastern Finland drew visitors from all over the world. Russian Tsars came from Catherine the Great to Nicholas II. So did Pedro the Magnanimous, Emperor of Brazil. In 1903 a large hotel was built next to the rapids, and three years later Igor and Katerina Stravinsky had their honeymoon there.

Today it is only possible to experience the rapids for 20 minutes on a summer's evening, for in 1929 the river was dammed for hydroelectricity. This was a major national event. An Imatra Symphony was requested from Sibelius, though it came to nothing, and foreign dignitaries travelled to attend the damming. The new dam was an emblem of progress to the Finnish people. But after the rapids ran dry, a terrible silence fell. Where once there had been a constant roaring torrent, now birds began to sing. The price of Imatra's progress was a tense, never-ending peace. 'Rauha', is the Finnish word for peace.

One summer's evening in 2008 I spent 20 minutes beside the rushing waters. The noise is hugely impressive, almost overwhelming, and I wondered how it must have felt when it was abruptly taken away, especially if you had lived next to it all your life. This piece is the result of my wondering.

Rauha is scored for three flutes (two doubling piccolo), two oboes, two clarinets (one doubling bass), two bassoons (one doubling contra); also pairs of horns and trumpets, an array of clanging percussion (bells plates and cowbells prominent), a piano that turns into an out-of-tune honky-tonk piano then a harmonium, and double basses. It was commissioned by the Australian National Academy of Music and composed between September and December 2009.

© A.F.