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Sibelius was deeply ambivalent about his ‘choral symphony’, blocking publication until after his death. It wasn’t recorded until about 1970, I think, on the first of Paavo Berglund’s versions. This new CD tops even the later versions by Neeme Järvi and by Osmo Vänskä. The introduction, which sets up the trajectories of Kullervo’s brutally tragic life, is tightly controlled and almost discursive, like a bard’s prologue. Nor do the two principals overegg their X-rated relationship. If there is redemption waiting in the wings, it comes through Kullervo’s self-sacrifice, and Sibelius may have learned from Bruckner how to first delay and then deliver the moment of transcendence. Lintu and his choirs catch both perfectly. For all the ambiguity and unfortunate circumstance in which it first appeared in 1892, Kullervo is an epoch in Finnish music, and that is reflected in this powerfully feeling interpretation.

BRIAN MORTON Read the full review on Agora Classica

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