Sunday, April 25, 2010

KULLERVO - A FINNISH LEGEND


It took me some time to introduce myself to this great choral symphony of Sibelius. No symphonic cycle of Sibelius is complete without Kullervo. In 1892, this was the first extensive work of Sibelius.Johan Julius Christian Jean Sibelius was born in Hameenlinna on 8th December 1865. He became the master of Finnish national music. His music created a new national identity for the tiny nation that had long been a part of Sweden and was then annexed to the Russian empire. Kullervo, Op. 7, is a monumental symphony. The first movement conveys a sense of drama and fate. The Kullervo theme is lucid as an idee fixe. The opening movement reflects a Brucknerian approach although Tchaikovskian influence is also detectable. The second movement has crisp orchestration. The third movement highlights the dramatic qualities of the work. The rhythms and discords in the music support the drama of the sister's extensive monologue and the following lament of Kullervo taken from the Kalevala legend. The fourth movement is martial battle music coloured with folk music allusions. The last movement is sombre. The music subsides as Kullervo falls on his own sword. In conclusion, the listener returns to where he started as the main theme of the first movement rounds off the work. My first introduction to this work was by the Turku Philharmonic under Jorma Panula. It is a great reading that sounds purely Finnish.

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