(January 17, 2017) The Swedish label BIS Records is releasing the latest offering from Music Director Osmo Vänskä and the Minnesota Orchestra: a live-in-concert recording featuring Sibelius’ five-part symphonic poem Kullervo, his beloved Finlandia, and Finnish composer Olli Kortekangas’ Migrations, a new work commissioned by the Orchestra. The two-disc set features an all-star Finnish cast, including soloists Lilli Paasikivi and Tommi Hakala, and the celebrated YL Male Voice Choir.
The new recording will be released nationwide in the United States on February 3, but is available now through the Orchestra’s website at minnesotaorchestra.org.
Led by Mr. Vänskä, the works were recorded in three February 2016 concerts at Minneapolis’ Orchestra Hall.
Sibelius’ Kullervo―based on a story from Finland’s national epic the Kalevala―tells the dark folk tale of Kullervo, whose shocking encounter with a long-lost sister ultimately leads him to take his own life. Sibelius described the work as “a new symphony, totally in the Finnish spirit” and it is often regarded as the first successful example of a Finnish national musical language. Premiered in 1892, Kullervo marked Sibelius’ breakthrough as a composer of orchestral music.
He scored the work for mezzo, baritone, male voice choir and orchestra.
Seven years later, in 1899, Sibelius wrote Finlandia for a patriotic event, and the work quickly came to represent the awakening of Finland’s national consciousness and quest for independence. Although there is no choral part in the original published version, many years later Sibelius was persuaded to arrange the famous hymn section for choir.
Mr. Kortekangas’ Migrations was commissioned by the Minnesota Orchestra to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the start of modern Finnish immigration to North America; many of those immigrants landed in the Midwest, particularly Minnesota. Mr. Vänskä intended for the work to be paired programmatically with Sibelius’ Kullervo.
“This affected the thematics, choice of texts and setup of my work,” writes Mr. Kortekangas. “The concepts of identity, alienation and migration, so powerfully tragic in Sibelius’ work…guided my search for suitable texts.”
Discovering the work of the Minnesota-based poet Sheila Packa, herself of Finnish descent, Mr. Kortekangas composed Migrations for mezzo, male voice choir and orchestra, nearly the same forces as Kullervo.
The piece is structured around four sung movements linked by three instrumental interludes.
The recording is produced by BIS’ Robert Suff.
The Kullervo album offers a complement to the highly acclaimed Sibelius Symphony cycle which Mr. Vänskä and the Minnesota Orchestra brought to a close with the release of Symphonies No. 3, 6 and 7 in September. The cycle was launched in 2012 with the release of the Second and Fifth Symphonies on a recording that received a Grammy Award nomination. The second recording in the cycle—featuring the First and Fourth Symphonies—won the 2014 Grammy Award for Best Orchestral Performance.
The Minnesota Orchestra, founded in 1903 as the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra, issued its first recording in 1924 and has since recorded more than 450 works, with Mr. Vänskä leading a particularly rich period of recording since his tenure began in 2003. Other recordings include two albums of Beethoven piano concertos featuring Yevgeny Sudbin; a two-disc Tchaikovsky set featuring pianist Stephen Hough; and a widely-praised cycle of the complete Beethoven symphonies, of which two discs—one of the Ninth Symphony and one of the Second and Seventh—drew Grammy and Classical FM Gramophone award nominations, respectively. This season, Mr. Vänskä and the Orchestra will record Mahler’s Second and Sixth Symphonies.
Sibelius: Kullervo and Finlandia
Osmo Vänskä, conductor
YL Male Voice Choir
Lilli Paasikivi, mezzo
Tommi Hakala, baritone
Sibelius: Kullervo, for soloists, male choir and orchestra
Kortekangas: Migrations, for mezzo soloist, male choir and orchestra
Sibelius: Finlandia, with choir participation
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