Think Finland, think
Sibelius. Think Kajanus, think conductor.
As we can see from
this CD, Kajanus's reputation can rest
on more than the fact that he conducted
Symphonies 1, 2, 3 and 5 for the 1930s
Sibelius Society project - why not the
others, I wonder. Here is a CD's worth
of his music. The only pity is that
space was not made for the Finnish Rhapsody
No. 2. As it is, this collection includes
the first commercial recordings of his
He has not made much
of an impact internationally although
within Finland there have been radio
orchestra broadcasts of Aino and
the two rhapsodies conducted by Segerstam,
Berglund and Cronvall. It fell to the
wonderfully enterprising Leslie Head
to conduct the UK premiere of Aino
at St Johns Smith Square, London
on 20 February 1975 - a very unusual
event. Such a pity that we no longer
hear from this fine conductor.
To my knowledge this
Bis CD is the first all-Kajanus CD.
In fact I am hard put to think of any
previous Kajanus recordings. Perhaps
there have been recordings issued in
Finland - let me know.
The confident Kajanus
emerged into a still fairly primitive
musical world in the Finland of the
1860s and 1870s. He founded the orchestra
that was to become the Helsinki Philharmonic
Orchestra in competition with Martin
Wegelius. He studied in Leipzig and
was a drinking friend of Sibelius's
(perhaps a Warlock to Sibelius’s Moeran).
He studied with Svendsen
in Paris in 1879-80. Svendsen encouraged
him to introduce Finnish folksongs into
the First Rhapsody, an
inoffensively tuneful work included
here. It has a rather lovely, and in
this recording tenderly played, hymn-like
section at 5.10. It includes the folksong
I cannot forget you - which sounds
a little like Shenandoah.
The work has the innocent playfulness
of the music of Dvořák and Smetana.
It ends in a Lisztian rumpus.
The Kalevala was a
significant source of inspiration to
Finnish composers. Sibelius used it
extensively but before him Filip von
Schantz had written a Kullervo
overture in 1860. Madetoja and Sallinen
were to explore the Kullervo story in
The Kajanus Kullervo's
Funeral March, with its tragic
mien, shows the influence of Wagner
as well as Berlioz, Mahler (Symphony
No. 1) and Tchaikovsky. The beetling
angry cortège broods, thunders
and flashes. There is also some tenderness
at 2.30 on the entry of the Finnish
folk tune My poor mother. The
slender vitreous writing for the strings
We then leave Kajanus's
Leipzig days far behind and move to
Helsinki. The four movement Sinfonietta
was dedicated to Sibelius and
both string and wind writing includes
characteristic Sibelian touches. These
look back towards the Second Symphony;
not towards the contemporaneous Fifth.
The Intermezzo echoes some of
Sibelius's lighter music including also
the bucolic suites of Ludolf Nielsen.
The Molto adagio third movement
is of quite another order. This is extremely
touching and here most sensitively carried
off by Vänskä and the Lahti
Orchestra. This movement should feature
in anthologies in its own right. The
final allegro con fuoco has some
startlingly vivid string writing even
if the wind contribution recalls the
Apprentices music from Meistersinger.
Lastly comes the Aino
poem which includes a brief
part for male chorus singing words from
‘The Kalevala’. Once again Wagner is
a clear influence whether in references
to brooding funereal music or to Meistersinger.
At 2.10 the acceleration sounds Brucknerian,
rising to a slow-striding Wagnerian
grandeur perhaps mixed with elements
from the last movement of Tchaikovsky's
Pathétique. It could easily
be ranked alongside the 'second rank'
Tchaikovsky tone poems such as Fatum
and Hamlet and with Liszt
works such as Hunnenschlacht,
Ce qu'on entends sur la montagne
and From the Cradle to the Grave.
There is some gloriously raw brass writing
- regal and courageous. The last five
minutes usher in the warming choral
part entering with gentle affirmation
like a benediction. The great arching
theme is carried high and in victory
by choir and orchestra. A touch of the
grand tune from Finlandia here.
Good informative notes
by Andrew Barnett. The words of the
Aino symphony are printed in
Finnish and in English translation.
Wagnerian late romanticism
with the subtlest Sibelian flavour ...
all extremely well done.
Further to your review of the Kajanus
collection on Bis, there is an
earlier recording of Aino on an Ondine
CD (ODE 922-2) by the Finnish
Radio SO and Helsinki University Male
Voice Choir cond Jorma Panula.
The CD, called Sibelius Favourites,
also contains En Saga, Pohjola's
Daughter, Impromptu, Rakastava and Andante
Festivo, by various
conductors and Finnish orchestras, the
last the classic 1939 recording
conducted by Sibelius. The CD was released