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Reviews: Sibelius: Kullervo - Spano

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Reviews: 3

Site review by Geohominid June 4, 2008
Performance:   Sonics:    
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Review by Luukas July 16, 2014 (6 of 6 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
This is thrilling performance of Jean Sibelius' (1865-1957) early masterwork, Kullervo (Op. 7) for sopran, baritone, male chorus and orchestra. My first introduction of this work was Jorma Panula's recording (Naxos) and it is just OK. Last year I bought Sir Colin Davis' recording (LSO Live) with Monica Groop and Peter Mattei, and I liked it very much.
Breitkopf & Härtel published new critical urtex edition of this work in 2005 and Robert Spano and Atlanta's forces used it in their recording. Spano founds many new interesting things from the score, and the results are breathtaking: first and fourth movements are exciting, and whole work's tragic message comes very close in Telarc's outstanding recording.
First movement, Introduction [12:47] is moving, and Spano leads his musicians in great adventure: the sorrowful main theme is full of passion and emotion, and it is performed touchingly. Movement's dramatic end is powerful: clarinets and bassoons E minor chord tells, that there aren't happy end.
Second movement, Kullervo's Youth [14:59] is different. Spano understands this score, and he created great climax of movement's horrible end. Atlanta Symphony Orchestra is one of the best orchestra on Earth, and its tone is rich and beautiful: horns short melodies and woodwinds solos are gently.
Third movement, Kullervo and his Sister [23:34] is whole work's the longest part. Charlotte Hellekant is excellent as Sister, and Nathan Gunn's loudly voice is very good for Kullervo's role. Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Men's Chorus sings strongly and purely, but their Finnish language isn't authentic. I recommend Leif Segerstam's recording (Ondine) for this reason. Movement's end is very powerful, and Mr. Gunn really shines in his mourning. Sibelius re-orchestrated this part in his last year (1957) for bass-baritone Kim Borg.
Fourth movement, Kullervo goes to Battle [9:56] sounds very good. Trumpets and horns fanfares are effectively. Movement's triumphant end is hair-raising.
Fifth movement, Kullervo's death [10:17] gets me in tears, because it is so terrific, but still very beautiful. Movement's end is like Earthquake: Kullervo is death and orchestra's dramatic E minor accord ends the masterful work.
Nick Jones booklet notes are interesting: he tells this work's background, and Kalevala Runes translations are understandable. The disc and booklet are packaged in strong jewel case. This is true winner of Kullervo's recordings, and very welcomed release of all Sibelians. Outstanding.

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Review by Kal Rubinson August 3, 2014 (8 of 10 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  

"In an embarrassment of riches, this is the best of three new multichannel SACDs of Sibelius' early bardic masterwork. The competing release, with Colin Davis and the London Symphony (LSO Live LSO0574), is well played and has great soloists, but is hampered by dismembered sound and Davis' sluggish pace (it really sags in the complex meter that opens Kullervo Goes to Battle). The alternative, with Ari Rasilainen and the Rheinland-Pfalz State Philharmonic (CPO 777 196-2), has an outstanding chorus and stylish phrasing, but the sound is distant and the orchestra is simply not as capable as the LSO or ASO. Spano's version, however, sounds better with every hearing. His pacing and attention to the unusual rhythms is excellent, the orchestral performances are thrilling, and the sound is both more coherent and more colorful than the SACD competition. If you love Sibelius' symphonies, don't miss this."

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