Once the unplayed stepsister in Sibelius' symphonic canon, the Kullervo Symphony had become quite popular by the start of the twenty first century with new recordings released by Colin Davis, Osmo Vänskä, Jukka-Pekka Saraste, and several others. One of those others was this one with Robert Spano leading the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Men's Chorus. And although Spano's conducting is direct and effective, the Atlanta's playing is energetic and enthusiastic and the Men's Chorus singing is virile and robust, their performance cannot be said to be in the same class as the three mentioned above.
The reason for this is simple: Kullervo was the unplayed Sibelius symphony because the composer himself, recognizing its weaknesses, forbid any performances of the work during his long lifetime -- and those who have taken up Kullervo after his death have a lot of interpretive justifying to do. Davis, Vänskä, and Saraste give every iota of their experience and dedication to the work and somehow hold its sprawling length together through sheer strength of will. Spano may be giving everything he has to the work but he can't hold it together. The dreary 13 minutes of the Introduction is interminable; the dull 15 minutes of "Kullervo's Youth" is unending; the repetitive 24-minute "Kullervo and His Sister" is unendurable; the muscular 10 minutes of "Kullervo Goes to Battle" is too little; and the dismal 10-minute "Kullervo's Death" is too late. Listeners who already know and love Sibelius' magnificent series of numbered symphonies may wish to hear his early Kullervo, and for them, there are Davis' Vänskä's and Saraste's recordings. Spano's is only for listeners who have to hear every recording of the work ever made.
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|Kullervo, symphonic poem for vocal soloists, male chorus & orchestra, Op. 7|
|Kullervo's Youth||Robert Spano||15:05|
|Kullervo and His Sister||Robert Spano||23:29|
|Kullervo Goes to Battle||Robert Spano||9:59|
|Kullervo's Death||Robert Spano||10:17|