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Jean Sibelius: Kullervo, Op. 7
I. Introduction: Allegro moderato
II. Kullervo's Youth: Grave
III. Kullervo and his Sister: Allegro vivace
IV. Kullervo Goes to War: Alla marcia [Allegro molto] - Vivace - Presto
V. Kullervo's Death: Andante
“Vänskä is undoubtedly a Sibelian of strong instinct, and his Kullervo enshrines an interpretation of extraordinary grandeur and slumbering, runic mystery. After an ideally paced opening Allegro moderato (the Lahti strings lacking just a touch in sheer muscle), 'Kullervo's Youth' lasts an eyebrow-raising 19'18", well over three minutes longer than any predecessor. Courageously, Vänskä sticks to his guns, the music's unnervingly tragic portents distilled with mournful gravity. It's in the big central scena that BIS's sumptuously realistic and wide-ranging production really comes into its own. Vänskä directs with keen observation and tingling narrative flair, not missing the wondrous poetry of the nature music accompanying the lament of Kullervo's sister. What's more, his soloists and chorus are first-rate, though baritone Raimo Laukka isn't quite as fresh-voiced here as he was for Segerstam's in 1994. Following a splendidly lusty 'Kullervo goes to War', Vänskä crowns proceedings with a thrillingly grim and inevitable 'Kullervo's Death', with eloquent contributions from the men of the Helsinki University Chorus. As should be clear by now, this recording must feature high on any short list.”