on September 22, 2007
Sibelius's KULLERVO has always been one of my favorite orchestral works. Having said that, I'm quite surprised with myself that I had never heard this recording by Paavo Jarvi and the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra when it was first released in 1997. I cannot believe what I'd been missing!
This re-issue of the afore mentioned recording, simply put, blew me away. KULLERVO is an epic in every sence of the word, and thus requires a powerful, no-nonsense interpretation to come off as it should. Without a doubt, Jarvi and his Swedish forces understand the requirements of this score and perform it with drive, grandeur and authority.
The soloits and the choir are also outstanding. Peter Mattei's turn as Kullervo is filled with rich passion and just the right touch of latent rage. As Kullervo's tragic sister, Randi Stene also sings with true skill and emotion. And the choir...! The National Choir of Estonia sounds like a force of nature in this recording. When I heard their entrance in the third movement, I knew for sure this disc was a winner.
They also sing to incredible effect in the 5th and final movement, "Kullervo's Death." That combined with the flooring orchestral swells gave me goosebumbs. Truly a death scene of mythic proportions.
This could very well be a definitive recording of a wonderfully sweeping score.
This CD is a reissue at mid price -- I am repeating my original review below.
Sibelius wasn't proud in later years of his first great success, the semi-oratorio Kullervo. It made his name as a champion of Finnish clture, based as it is on the national epic Kalevala. The hero Kullervo has a grim story involving a murder and suicide prompted by guilt, but Sibelius's music isn't especially epic or dramatic. He was still finding his voice as a mature composer, and this work sprawls, its idiom becoming more diffuse as it goes along.
Despite its weaknesses, Kullervo has garnered more than its fair share of recent recordings. Colin Davis has been a champion of the work, and his recent live reading with the LSO is good, if a mite tame at times; his tempos are among the fastest, however. To date I've preferred the version from Osmo Vanska, whose Sibleius is rightly acclaimed. But this one from Paavo Jarvi is better recorded and has marginally more impact. The Swedish male chorus is quite excellent and is placed so that words are clearly understood. The soloists, particularly Peter Mattei, are another strength. In one respect Jarvi is quite daring, in that he takes a full five minutes more than usual in the finale, "Kullervo's Death," but I find the effect haunting and mysterious. Elsewhere, there's plenty of vigor and incisiveness.
In all, I think this CD deserves five stars, but for me Kullervo still awaits the fiery performance that will bring it fully to life.
on December 9, 2009
This recording of Kellervo is very nuanced and the tones of the orchestra and vocalists are stunning. It is a haunting work of beauty, and I am very glad that I selected this recording over others that are on Amazon. The third track in particular, "Kullervo och has syster" is my favorite. It has robust pacing and is sung well by all the vocalists. I strongly reccomend both this recording and this work. If you are a Sibelius fan, you cannot go wrong with this recording.