This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.
Notes and Editorial Reviews
A performance of commanding stature that reveals Kullervo as the great work it is.
Those who recall Sir Colin Davis's performance with the LSO of Kullervo at London's Barbican Centre in 1992 (subsequently televised) will not have forgotten its epic sweep and magisterial control. We have had to wait five years for his reading to reach the catalogue during which time there have been numerous rivals. All the alternatives since the original issue of Paavo Berglund's Helsinki account have accommodated Kullervo on one CD. Sir Colin's (at nearly 81 minutes) runs to two and brings us not only Sibelius's first essay in the form but also his last. The set also includes two other works conceived in the 1890s, En Saga, from 1893,
revised for Busoni's celebrated New Music concerts in 1901, and Rakastava composed originally for a cappella voices in 1894 and reworked for strings and timpani in 1911. Although Davis recorded En Saga with the Boston orchestra (Philips, 3/82 — nla), I don't recall his giving us an earlier account of Rakastava, one of Sibelius's most affecting pieces. It is affectingly played, too, though I do feel that Sir Colin makes rather heavy weather of the last movement where the farewells seem to be overcharged and too protracted. I liked the earlier version of En Saga and like this every bit as much. In his hands the Seventh Symphony, which he has always done as to the manner born, is by turns powerful, epic and serene, its climaxes expertly placed.
But to turn to Kullervo: what works in the concert-hall may not make the same impression when heard in the intimacy of the home. First, let me say that the LSO play with refinement and spirit, and the London Symphony Chorus are responsive even if, in the opening of the last move ment, they do not quite surpass the deeper, darker basses of the Finnish and Estonian choirs on rival issues. They are excellent in the middle movement. The first movement is slower than I had remembered it — certainly slower than the 1958 performance by Sibelius's son-in-law, Jussi Jalas, which brought this piece alive again after its long slumber. Yet after a few bars it struck me as being exactly right. It is spacious and broad (three minutes longer than most rivals) which underlines the Brucknerian feeling to the piece. Bruckner's Third Symphony made a great impression on Sibelius during his year in Vienna when the first ideas of Kullervo were forming in his mind. The slow movement, "Kullervo's Youth", is splendidly characterized, as is the central "Kullervo and his Sister" movement. Karl-Magnus Fredriksson may not be quite as dark-toned as Hynninen, or the admirable Hillevi Martinpelto quite as authoritative as Isokowski or Groop, but they both acquit themselves well. The remaining two movements seem to me to be paced with unerring judgement. Strangely enough, looking at the figures Davis takes about ten minutes longer than such an echt Sibelian as Paavo Berglund and yet at no point does it feel it.
Every time I hear it I am puzzled that Sibelius should have entertained such strong doubts about Kullervo as to discourage performances during his lifetime. There are many fine versions listed above and I would not want to praise this excellently recorded newcomer at their expense. All that I need say, I think, is that Sir Colin's is a performance of commanding stature that reveals Kullervo as the great work it is. At the end I wanted to applaud.
-- Gramophone [12/1997]
This recording received a 1998 "Critic's Choice" award from Gramophone magazine.
Works on This Recording
Kullervo, Op. 7 by Jean Sibelius
Hillevi Martinpelto (Soprano),
Karl Magnus Fredriksson (Baritone)
Sir Colin Davis
London Symphony Orchestra,
London Symphony Chorus
Written: 1892; Finland
En saga, Op. 9 by Jean Sibelius
Sir Colin Davis
London Symphony Orchestra
Written: 1892/1902; Finland
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