Hannu Lintu’s Slick Kullervo

Review by: David Hurwitz


Artistic Quality: 7

Sound Quality: 9

Can you believe that four conductors have now recorded Sibelius’ once vanishingly rare Kullervo Symphony twice (Segerstam, Davis, Berglund, and Vänskä), and there must be a half-dozen other versions buzzing about? Ondine already has one of the reference versions (Segerstam’s), and so I’m puzzled at the need to make yet another one that patently isn’t as good. Of course Lintu knows how the music goes. The orchestra plays well, and the usual choirs make their usual sounds. But that’s the problem. The music sounds “usual”. It’s uniformly bright, perky, and bold, but completely lacking in that primal, epic, mysterious, and legendary character that the best versions project.

Consider Kullervo’s Youth. Where is the heaviness, the sadness, that “crack of doom” quality to the big climaxes, with their harrowing pauses? Part of the problem comes from lack of attention to the accompaniments. The string sextuplets in the main theme are smeared, and cut short. There’s no depth to the sound–everything remains on the surface. Even the male choirs seem to lack a bottom. The best movement, accordingly, is the brash Kullervo Goes to War. It’s aptly loud and gutsy. But if you want to hear this music as the raw, visceral work that it ought to be, stick with Segerstam 2, also on Ondine, or Berglund 1.

p.s. There’s a really scary photo of Lintu, all in black, with his pet Hell-Hound, Fluffy, on the back cover. If only the performance were similarly terrifying…

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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Segerstam 2 (Ondine); Berglund/Bournemouth (EMI/Warner)

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