Magazine article Gramophone

Sibelius * Kortekangas

Magazine article Gramophone

Sibelius * Kortekangas

Article excerpt

Sibelius * Kortekangas

Kortekangas Migrations (a) Sibelius Finlandia, Op 26. Kullervo, Op 7 (b) (ab) Lilli Paasikivi mez (b) Tommi Hakala bar (b) YL Male Voice Choir; Minnesota Orchestra / Osmo Vanska BIS (F) (2) [SACD] BIS9048 (114' * DDD/DSD * T/t) Recorded live at Orchestra Hall, Minneapolis, February 4-6,2016

No choir on the planet has as much experience or affinity I with Kullervo as the YL Male Voice Choir and the ensemble proves as much here from the very first stanza of text in Sibelius's Op 7: the annunciation of 'Ku-ller-vo', with its lightly rolled 'r', and the twisting diphthong and attacca 'a' of 'poika'. The choir is bushytailed in 'Kullervo and his Sister' without sounding raucous--as good a litmus test as any--and clearly helped make this live performance in Minneapolis an event.

So what of the orchestra? I'd say Vanska's Minnesota Orchestra is even more lustrous now than it was prelockout, particularly in its string sections (notice the textures around 5'30" in 'Kullervo's Youth'). As always, articulation is the watchword with Vanska and you hear it everywhere, perhaps best of all in the contrasting orchestrations that underlie that repeating opening vocal 'Kullervo, Kalervon poika'. Vanska knows what he wants to convey: a hopelessness from the start of 'Kullervo's Youth' that completely eludes Colin Davis and others; a demonic quality in 'Kullervo Goes to War' that underlines the thematic link with Stravinsky's Petrushka (never heard that before).

But ultimately, there's something about this Kullervo that underwhelms. It might be the soloists: Lilli Paasikivi's wonderful instrument sounds wayward and frequently sharp (she is no match for Paavo Jarvi's Randi Stene, a personal favourite); Tommi Hakala doesn't bring the electrifying, hopeless brilliance to 'Voi poloinen' that Waltteri Torikka did for Sakari Oramo at the 2015 Proms (couldn't Torikka have been given the chance to record it, given Hakala has before?). Oramo's performance was gripping from the start (even on the BBC's iPlayer) in a way that Vanska's isn't. I am sure Vanska will please those who view the piece more symphonically.

But what a joy it is to see this wonderful orchestra standing tall again--tall enough to commission a brand-new work to complement Kullervo, and for the same forces. …

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