Sibelius: Lemminkäinen Legends, Op 22; Pohjola's Daughter, Op 49

Reviewed on Mon 08 Jun, 2015

This is not Ondine’s first encounter with the Lemminkäinen Legends. Earlier versions on the label by the Helsinki Philharmonic under Leif Segerstam (coupled with Tapiola) and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra under Mikko Franck (with En Saga) are also mightily impressive, the former especially. The principal difference here, aside from the extended dynamic curve on the new recording (a real boon in the dramatic shock waves that run through ‘Lemminkäinen in Tuonela’) is the sense that Hannu Lintu and the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra speak the music while singing it. Accents, phrase shaping and articulation all suggest that what you’re hearing is a musical reflection of the Finnish language; in other words, the ancient Kalevala come to life. ‘The Swan of Tuonela’ suggests an uncannily smooth surface, dead, dark, mysterious, and evolving evenly so that each episode runs seamlessly into the next. ‘Lemminkäinen’s Return’ on the other hand is razor-sharp, Lintu’s approach rhythmically driven and ultimately triumphant. Pohjola’s Daughter is played along similar lines, again promoting the sense that what you’re hearing is as much language as music. Magnificent.
–Rob Cowan