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Hannikainen in Moscow: The Complete Melodiya Recordings
Jean SIBELIUS (1865-1957)
Symphony No.4 in A minor, op.63 (1911) [35:18]
Valse triste, Op. 44 No. 1 (1903-4) [5:10]
Finlandia, Op. 26 (1899 rev 1900) [8:47]
Lemminkäinen Legends, Op. 22 (1895, rev. 1897, 1939) [46:54]
Uuno KLAMI (1900-1961)
Kalevala Suite III Terchenniemi, Op. 23 (1943) [6:38]
Armas JÄRNEFELT (1869-1958)
Berceuse (1904) [3:42]
Praeludium (1899-1900) [2:32]
Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra/Tauno Hannikainen
rec. c.1957, Moscow
MAESTRO EDITIONS ME007 [62:16 + 46:54]

Most Sibelians feel real admiration for Tauno Hannikainen. His stewardship of the Violin Concerto for the incendiary Tossy Spivakovsky and of Tapiola for Everest is well-known (review). For World Record Club he recorded the Second and Fifth symphonies as well as the Karelia suite (review). But what we have here is the sequence of Sibelius works – and a few other Scandinavian pieces – that he recorded in Moscow for Melodiya c.1957.

Topmost is the Fourth Symphony, the granitic expanses of which evoke tundra wildness. With Melodiya’s soundstage uncompromisingly up-front and with the Moscow orchestra in combative form the performance is one of intense power and structural integrity. The magnetic austerity of the slow movement, with control of tempo and mood and dynamics, reveals the conductor’s natural authority in Sibelius’ symphonic span and though the music surges and rages it does so with an unexaggerated control. Though the strings are cut from the finest Russian tradition, it’s perhaps the winds – even more than the brass – that immortalise this reading. You may well need other, perhaps more interventionist, self-conscious readings, but Hannikainen’s is raptly unignorable.

The other major work he recorded was the Four Legends. Once again, the winds are on very personal form and not just the cor anglais in The Swan of Tuonela where one finds a non-sentimentalised approach that still manages to unlock acreage of expressive depth. There are a few trivial clicks on the LP used to transfer this performance. The companion pieces are just as good and Lemminkainen is in the best of hands. A purposefully selected contrasting pair was also taped: Valse triste and Finlandia though they weren’t coupled together, the former appearing on a 10” Melodiya release in 1959 and the latter on a 12” the following year.

This leaves a brace of Järnefelt; the ultra-popular Berceuse and Praeludium (lively and fresh-faced). Take care with the tracking as both these are numbered track 6 in the booklet. And to end there’s Klami’s Terchenniemi, which is full of colour and dance and geniality.

There’s a nicely presented eight-page booklet with a biography of the conductor, well reproduced photographs of musicians and some LP cover sleeves and full discographical information. The transfers are faithful and true. If you’ve not come across Hannikainen’s Moscow recordings make haste to hear them; they’re that good.

Jonathan Woolf

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