Various Scenes from the Kalevala

The Kalevala is a compilation of folk poetry, arranged into 50 extensive runos (poems) by the Finnish physician and folklorist Elias Lönnrot.

Beginning with the creation of the world, it develops into a series of separate episodes, introducing epic characters whose names have lots of vowels and umlauts, like Väinämöinen. The collection first appeared in 1835. It played a major part in Finland’s national identity, and its art, in the late 19th century.

In this programme, the Lahti Symphony Orchestra and Dima Slobodeniouk bring together Kalevala-related works spanning the period between 1897 and 1943. Sibelius is included but they go for other composers, either to give them some exposure or because they capture elements of the poetry Sibelius does not.

The sound you might half-imagine, and while it is the rousing music of Finlandia, interspersed with more gentle moments, it’s also not because the other composers wrote in the shadow of the great man and tried to be different.

Leevi Madetoja opens and it’s dramatic, but then it is the creation of the world, all winds and tumbling.
Uuno Klami follows and here the creation is more gentle, stars emerging gently from blackness and with a nice, primitive feel in places while The Sprout of Spring is rustic. Klami’s music is generally earthier than one might expect.

Sibelius is next, the first recording of Lemminkäinen In Tuonela; this starts slowly but with ominous strings: Lemminkäinen lives a wild life and is doing a spot of seducing, the strings suggesting danger to come. Kullervo Goes To War closes, written by Tauno Pylkkänen.

This is out on BIS-2371 (SACD).

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