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Monday, September 20, 2004
  Cincinnati Symphony Orhestra concert review #1
Leonore Overture No. 3, Op. 72b by Beethoven
Kullervo, Op. 7 by Sibelius

Paavo Järvi, conducting
Charlotte Hellekant, mezzo-soprano
Jaakko Kortekangas, baritone
Estonian National Male Choir, Ants Soots, director

Last Friday night I walked across Washington Park to hear the CSO's first concert of the season. My good mood was easily encouraged by their performance of an old standard. And I was perfectly unprepared for the strange story and broad orchestral writing of Sibelius' neglected Opus 7.

Kullervo was an ambitious project for Sibelius. Once completed, instead of setting a standard it served that composer merely as a learning experience. Though its author turned it aside, it has since found friends. Professor Gann described the work's history in the notes. (I like to read them after the concert.) What he did not mention is how bizarre the piece is as an opener to the orchestra's season. The story of the soon-to-be-suicidal Kullervo unwittingly doing harm to his sister while wearing blue stockings is a real downer. That the story was presented so well made it all the more unsettling.

The soloists sounded as beautiful as they looked. It was their acting, restrained though it was, that served as an effective guide to the listener's imagination. And the exotic, sinister sound of the Finnish language was powerfully accomplished by the Estonian National Male Choir. However, in spite of the large numbers on stage, the strength of Kullervo is the writing for the strings, especially the violins.

I walked home feeling bad for Kullervo, a child ill-nurtured, / early rocked in stupid cradles.

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In January 2004 I starting writing an opinion for each selection in the Norton Recorded Anthology of Western Music. Now, more than a year later, I am almost finished. Soon, I will have an archive full of opinions on the music we so carelessly call "classical." And no one can stop me.

Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

Director of the Contemporary Performer's Workshop... Music Teacher for St. Aloysius Gonzaga School... Principal 'Cellist of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra... Composer

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