I suppose that over the years I had thought it immature, overlong, a collection of symphonic poems tacked together, though very impressive in parts.
I had certainly never thought that I would hear the work live in concert.
Not long ago I returned from a performance of "Kullervo" at the Edinburgh Festival: Royal Scottish National Orchestra conducted by Edward Gardner with the Edinburgh Festival Chorus and RSNO Chorus Male Voices (90 strong).
It was one of the most profoundly moving and electrifyingly exciting musical experiences of my life. Gardner conducted like a man possessed, his wonderfully passionate commitment to the piece gave it a unity and totality. The RSNO played as if their very lives depended on it with full-bodied, rich strings and resplendent brass. The chorus sounded echt Finnish and attacked with fantastic choral ferocity.
I realised-much more clearly now than ever before-how the ambition of the 27 year old composer produces a work which was so ground-breaking and which must have been so incredibly moving to the Finnish audience of the time.
And as I listened to the sad but ultimately triumphant final movement "Kullervo's Death" I was moved to tears by what must be one of the most glorious closing few minutes in choral music.
A revelation! And proof once again of the power and impact of live music in the concert hall.
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Len Mullenger - Founder of MusicWeb