Dausgaard’s Provincial Kullervo

Review by: David Hurwitz


Artistic Quality: 7

Sound Quality: 8

Had this recording appeared a decade or two ago, it might have excited greater interest. As it is, Kullervo has now received its fair share of excellent recordings. The first, Berglund’s on EMI/Warner, has a raw intensity and spontaneity that remain pretty much unmatched. For the most interesting interpretation, there’s Vänskä’s first recording on BIS (his Minnesota remake isn’t quite as good). If you want the best singing and playing, Segerstam on Ondine is hard to beat; and for an all around, passionate and exciting experience Colin Davis with the LSO on its proprietary label (not his dull first version on RCA) is also worth considering.

So what does Dausgaard bring to the table? Not much. He’s one of those conductors who likes to poke at the music rather than play it. In Kullervo’s Youth, for example, he over-articulates the sextuplet accompaniment to the point where it almost drowns out the melody. And yet, the fearsome climaxes sound too small, too restrained. The long central movement, Kullervo and His Sister, gets off to a jerky start, with odd accents here and there, and a chorus (the Lund Student Singers) that sounds clearly too small. An underwhelming love scene and solo singing that’s merely good completes the ho-hum impression. The fourth movement, with its battle scenes excitingly projected, comes off best, but the finale again is less then gripping thanks to the insufficient number of voices.

The orchestra too sounds undernourished, especially the violins. Has Dausgaard spent too much time playing large romantic works with a chamber orchestra? Has he forgotten how to build a climax? The latter stages of the first movement reveal very plainly his unwillingness to cut his players loose and let them dig into the music. Mind you, this still isn’t bad. The fleet tempos and firm rhythms propel the music along nicely, and as I said, ten or twenty years ago my opinion would have been different. It’s a question of comparisons. We know this music well now–what it can sound like, what it expresses, and the optimal parameters for a great interpretation. This isn’t one of them.

Buy Now from Arkiv Music

Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Berglund I (EMI/Warner); Segerstam (Ondine)

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