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Andrew Mellor
Gramophone, December 2018

Kajanus’s understanding of Sibelius’s novel structures is fully in evidence in that most mysterious of scores, Tapiola. © 2018 Gramophone

Richard A. Kaplan
Fanfare, November 2013

SIBELIUS, J.: Symphony No. 1 / Pohjola's Daughter / Tapiola (Kajanus Conducts Sibelius, Vol. 1) (1930-1932) 8.111393
SIBELIUS, J.: Symphony No. 2 / Belshazzar's Feast Suite / Karelia Suite (excerpts) (Kajanus Conducts Sibelius, Vol. 2) (1930-1932) 8.111394
SIBELIUS, J.: Symphonies Nos. 3 and 5 / Jager March (Kajanus Conducts Sibelius, Vol. 3) (1928, 1932) 8.111395

…we have, on three discs, the complete Sibelius recordings by his first great interpreter, Robert Kajanus, all premiere recordings and as close to horse’s mouth as there is for this composer, in Mark Obert-Thorn’s exemplary transfers. © 2013 Fanfare

David Radcliffe
American Record Guide, May 2013

Listeners in pursuit of authenticity will seek out these Sibelius recordings made at the behest of the Finnish government and conducted by Robert Kajanus, a longtime associate of the composer. In the crowded field of brilliant pre-war performances of Sibelius, Kajanus stands out as the most ethnic, the most Northern of all. Not that there is much else in the way of Finnish performances to compare these to. Sibelius himself, notoriously, placed his stamp of approval on quite divergent ways of performing his compositions. Authentic compared to what? In the 1920s and 30s Sibelius was having such an effect on British music that the composer could well have been re-branded as English.

One recognizes in these performances a way with the music that has much in common with Henry Wood, Albert Coates, and Sir Thomas Beecham—which is to say that Kajanus, like many another conductor of his generation, was of the Nikisch school. Arthur Nikisch (1855-1922), Kajanus (1856-1933), and Sibelius (1865-1957) were contemporary late romantics with a penchant for strong rhythmic contrasts, striking colors, flexible tempos, and flamboyant individualism. Whether the marked idiosyncrasies in these performances are more “Finnish” or more “Kajanus” is more than I can say, but they certainly are thrillingly, authentically romantic. The 1930 RPO (in the symphonies & Karelia) and 1932 LSO (in the rest) were not tonally the equals of the London Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, or Boston Symphony but are otherwise fully competitive. The English wind players are excellent. The early Columbia electrical recordings of the era were technically unsurpassed and sound great in this reissue series. © 2013 American Record Guide

Gary Lemco
Audiophile Audition, November 2012

In the first of three projected installments of the Kajanus legacy, producer and engineer Mark Obert-Thorn has masterfully restored the visceral performances by the old RPO and LSO that set the standard for recorded Sibelius interpretation.

Whatever the sonic limitations of the Kajanus E Minor Symphony…the clarity of orchestral detail and studied rendering of the various themes…prove taut and dramatic. Tympani, clarinet, and harp often dominate the first movement, with strings in blazing or percussive motion in attendance. The Andante extends Kajanus’ iron grip on tempo and dynamics, but he does permit a pantheistic lyricism into the music that adds a mystical flavor. A grand sweep permeates this noble rendition. Strumming strings and colossal tympani mark the Scherzo, whose woodwinds, too, engage in hearty bits of colloquy that soon explode into a dervish dance. Flute, horns, and tympani well define the bucolic trio section.

Kajanus recorded the 1906 symphonic poem Pohjola’s Daughter 29-30, June 1932…the music has a fervor that combines mystery, languor, and adventurous excitement. Kajanus raises the intensity of the piece via the LSO winds and strings quite suddenly without sacrificing majesterial grandeur for histrionics. Wonderful transparency marks this performance, and the transfer from shellacs sounds virtually seamless. © 2012 Audiophile Audition Read complete review

Rob Barnett
MusicWeb International, November 2012

[Kajanus’] Sibelius First Symphony is a thing of wildness and lulling beauty…The…extravagantly leisurely caress of the Andante contrasts with the possessed rhythms and cliff-edge drama of the finale and first movement. Detail such as the ticking harp barbs in the grand romantic flow of the finale is remarkably present for a historical recording. Kajanus is similarly gripping in Pohjola’s Daughter (Pohjolan tytär) which bristles with imagination.

…we benefit from Mark Obert-Thorn’s lavish and meticulous attention to detail. The more than capable notes are by Colin Anderson. © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review

David Denton
David's Review Corner, October 2012

Though Robert Kajanus was a highly gifted and prolific composer, posterity will recall his name conducting this series of Sibelius recordings. In fact we forget the impact that Kajanus’s music had on the young Sibelius, the two becoming good friends with Kajanus encouraging him by commissioning the tone poem En Saga. Fortunately for Sibelius, Kajanus was also a highly respected conductor who spent fifty years in charge of the orchestra we now know as the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, and in that role he furthered the interests of the young man. It was manifested when he was invited to London for recordings funded by the Finnish government, the result being the first four of Sibelius’s symphonies together with shorter orchestral tone poems. He did not live long enough to finish the project, dying in 1933 at the age of seventy-seven. What he gave to the world were interpretations that we believe Sibelius would have wished. To modern ears there is nothing revelatory in these recordings, but in reality they shaped, to a greater or lesser extent, all the performances that followed. Of course we will never know if the many details brought forward—the potency of harps in the finale of the symphony being a particular example—came from recorded balance or Kajanus’s wish, though the harps sound so right in their context. Fortunately the recorded quality was remarkable for the 1930’s, and though the dynamic range was restricted, you still get the sense of perspective. The Royal Philharmonic who recorded the symphony predated the orchestra Beecham formed, and they give of their all, just as the LSO were to provide in the two tone poems. How sound was improving comes in the difference of the more sophisticated quality in 1932 for Pohjola’s Daughter and Tapiola, though I would want to express gratitude to Mark Obert-Thorn for his superb transfers throughout. © 2012 David’s Review Corner

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