Colorful Scenes from the Kalevala on BIS

Review by: David Hurwitz


Artistic Quality: 9

Sound Quality: 9

This is a clever and interesting collection. Both Madetoja’s Kullervo and Klami’s Kalevala Suite will be well known to fans of Finnish music (and who isn’t?). The former is attractive and effectively structured, but also–typical of this composer–a bit emotionally reticent for such an expressively extreme subject. It’s not surprising that Madetoja never returned to the Kalevala for a major work. Klami’s suite by now ought to be considered a classic–perhaps the best work on a Finnish mythological subject not by Sibelius. Its style is French international, the Paris of Ravel and Stravinsky, and so different from Sibelius that it need not fear comparison. It has been recorded numerous times, including by BIS, but this newcomer certainly rises to the level of the competition.

Unfortunately the same can’t be said for Tauno Pylkkänen’s (1918-80) tone poem Kullervo Goes to War–as routine a post-romantic essay as it gets. It’s not terrible: just anonymous. All of which brings us to the interim 1897 version of Sibelius’ Lemminkäinen in Tuonela. Aside from a brief nip and tuck of about twenty bars, this is basically the version we know and love, and its presence is justified by BIS’ admirable determination to record every note that Sibelius wrote. It’s also good to be able to savor this, the stepchild of the four Lemminkäinen tone poems, all by itself. Happily, all of the performances by the Lahti Symphony Orchestra under Dima Slobodeniouk, are confidently projected, fresh and lively, and of course BIS’ SACD engineering is up to the high standard of the house, especially in recordings from this source.

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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: None for this collection

Works by Madetoja, Klami, Sibelius and Pylkkänen

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