Sunday, 25 September 2011

Sibelius Kullervo recording recommendations

Apropos Esa Pekka Salonen's Sibelius Kullervo at the Royal Festival Hall with the Philharmonia, here are some  recording recommendations. The Kullervo I keep going back to is Segerstam because Soile Isokoski is phenomenal ! She really understands the idea of Kullervo as a symbolic spirit of nature, driven by cosmic forces. In the Kalevala, Kullervo was a horribly abused child, his inheritance stolen and mistreated by his uncle, which is why he's so screwed up and heads to the forests. So when he falls in lust with the wealthy maiden who turns out to be his sister, the psychic shock is much greater than the text in this canata indicates. Isokoski and Segerstam know the background, and that makes all the difference.  Please also read here about Sibelius Luonnotar, another piece Isokoski and Segerstam performed so often that it's now standard repertoire. Isokoski makes it sound natural, spontaneous and elemental. Most singers hardly get past the Finnish syntax. Understand Luonnotar and the whole Kalevala mentality falls into place - and Sibelius, too.

Everyone needs to know Paavo Berglund's second recording because it is the classic. Berglund 1 was the first recording ever, made soon after the manuscript was republished. Berglund 2 made 15 years later is more mature and fuller. I'd also highly recommend Neeme Järvi (Gothenberg) for he has Jorma Hynninen and a very young Karita Mattila. Fabulous, But avoid Paavo Järvi's recording, it's definitely "son of..." As for Salonen's LA recording, remember it is nearly 20 years old. It's very clean, but now I think he will be much, much better and deeper. If Salonen records Kullervo again, wow, I think. As Le petit concertorialiste mentions, Salonen conducted Aulis Sallinen's Kullervo at around the same time. Sallinen has written many good things, but his Kullervo, at least on the basis of this CD, isn't one of his finer moments. But you can understand why Salonen championed Sallinen in Los Angeles. The story takes Kullervo into the urban jungle. Gangs, motorcycles, jazz (Sallinen wrote before rap) Conceptually correct, but Sallinen isn't Sibelius.

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