Sibelius's epic 'Kullervo' Symphony in a classic performance from 1992. Sir Colin Davis conducts the London Symphony Orchestra with soloists Soile Isokoski and Jorma Hynninen.
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Tonight, we're going to hear a real rarity,
an epic choral symphony by the great Finnish composer Jean Sibelius,
which is full of passion, heroics, and violence.
Sibelius wrote seven great numbered symphonies,
but today, we're going to hear the precursor to the main seven,
completed when he was just 26 years old.
This work unites everything that mattered to Sibelius -
Finnish national identity,
folk culture, drama,
and the opportunity to write on a truly symphonic scale.
Kullervo is based on the story of one of the young heroes
in the epic Finnish myth, the Kalevala.
In this classic recording from 1992,
Sir Colin Davis, a truly great interpreter of Sibelius' music,
conducts the London Symphony Orchestra
at the Barbican Hall in London.
He talked about the elements of the Kullervo myth
that Sibelius chose to explore.
The first movement is...
It's a big symphonic movement, I suppose.
He had in mind
to paint a portrait of his hero.
Whether that is quite successful...
when you read the poem, Kullervo is such a violent character.
I mean, whatever he is asked to do,
he does it to such an excess that it's a complete ruin.
He's asked to babysit,
and he gouges the eyes of the baby out, or wrecks the cradle.
He's asked to build a fence,
he builds such a colossal fence, but there's no gate in it,
so the space inside is really no use to anybody.
His whole life is under the shadow
of colossal incompetence,
which is only matched by his superhuman strength.
And then they say, "You'd better go and pay the taxes up in Lapland,"
and off he goes, and he pays his taxes,
and on the way home, he feels frightfully good,
and he grabs at this girl and that,
and they say, "Get to hell with you, a pox on you, young man,"
and so, the third one he grabs,
he seduces her with his fine box of belts and gewgaws,
and that happens which happens,
and then she asks him, "Well, who are you?"
And he says, "I'm the son of Kalervo, who are you?"
And she says, "I'm the daughter of Kalervo."
And it's clear that they are brother and sister,
and then she leaps into a ravine,
and he is left with his Oedipal guilt.
So he goes off to war,
to ruin his uncle,
which I think he succeeds in doing, comes back home,
and this is the last movement of the symphony.
He wanders off to the place where he made love to his sister,
where nothing grows any more,
and he has a very touching conversation with his sword.
"Will you eat guilty blood?"
And the sword says, "It's all the same to me.
"Innocent or guilty, I like it."
And he sticks his sword into the ground and he falls on it.
And then, in the poem,
the old singer says, "Well, you see?
"That's what happens to chaps if you don't bring them up properly!"
It's so homely!
And it's so touching,
all these grotesque adventures, and that's what we're brought down to.
Sir Colin Davis.
So, here to join the LSO,
and the men of the University of Helsinki choir,
come soprano Soile Isokoski
and baritone Jorma Hynninen
to perform the choral symphony of five movements, Kullervo.
MUSIC: "Kullervo's Youth"
MUSIC: "Kullervo And His Sister"
MUSIC: "Kullervo Goes To War"
MUSIC: "The Death Of Kullervo"
So, that brings us to the end
of this BBC classic performance from 1992
of Kullervo, Sibelius' youthful choral symphony.
The soloists were soprano Soile Isokoski
and baritone Jorma Hynninen.
The men of the Helsinki University Choir
joined the London Symphony Orchestra
and the great conductor Sir Colin Davis.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
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To accompany the Symphony series, a rare treat from the archives - the youthful, passionate and epic 'Kullervo' Symphony by the great Finnish composer Jean Sibelius, in a classic performance from 1992. Sir Colin Davis, a truly great interpreter of Sibelius's music, conducts the London Symphony Orchestra with soloists soprano Soile Isokoski and baritone Jorma Hynninen. Introduced by Simon Russell Beale.