GMG Classical Music Forum

The Music Room => Great Recordings and Reviews => Topic started by: bigshot on June 26, 2012, 04:40:18 PM

Title: Kajanus Conducts Sibelius
Post by: bigshot on June 26, 2012, 04:40:18 PM
Here is another CD's worth of my 78 transfers. This one features some of Kajanus's legendary Sibelius recordings. Here are links and liner notes...


Knudage Riisager: Qarrtsiluni
Johan Hye-Knudsen conducting Det Kongelige Kapel (Recorded September, 1939)

Jean Sibelius: Tapiola
Robert Kajanus conducting the London Philharmonic Orchestra (Recorded June, 1932)

Jean Sibelius: Pohjola's Daughter
Robert Kajanus conducting the London Philharmonic Orchestra (Recorded June, 1932)

Jean Sibelius: Symphony No. 5 in E flat major
Robert Kajanus conducting the London Philharmonic Orchestra (Recorded June, 1932)

Knudage Riisager and the Sounding Silence

Knudage Riisager was born in Estonia, and at the age of three relocated to Copenhagen. He studied politcal science as well as music, and throughout his life, he wrote extensively on politics, economics as well as musical theory. But composition was the main focus of his life. He began his musical career in Paris in the early 1920s, where he came to know Ravel, Stravinsky and the group of young composers known as "Les Six" (Darius Milhaud, Francis Poulenc, Arthur Honegger, Georges Auric, Louis Durey and Germaine Tailleferre). This French influence set him apart from contemporary Nordic composers, and his Neo-Classical ideology put him at odds with much of the modernistic German music of the day. "Oddness is a pathological phenomenon in art, an element that leads to a constant widening of the gap between art and humanity" Riisager wrote. "While distinctiveness is an expression of artistic strength, odd music has no future. Society does not want it and has no use for it... Art is not for cranks, it is for living human beings."

Riisager became fascinated with the Eskimo culture of Greenland. This interest led to the composition of a tone poem titled Qarrtsiluni, which describes the Eskimo ceremony to greet the dawn after the long Arctic night. Riisager captured a unique sound in this work... He wrote, "When I have been alone skiing for many hours through snowy wastes in the mountains, moments come when the silence sounds and becomes an intangible reality... In this sounding silence, there is something like the experience of music... This isolated silence is a rounded whole, without preceding or succeeding sound. That is what is so strange about it. It is moving. It is what the Greenlanders call Qarrtsiluni."

In Qarrtsiluni, Riisager creates an eerie feeling of isolation. Native drumming emerges as from a distance, so quiet at first, it might be the beating of the listener's own heart. The sound builds steadily as the winds blow across the frozen tundra and the sun rises slowly over the horizon. This particular performance was recorded under the supervision of the composer in 1939 by the orchestra of the Royal Theater in Copenhagen conducted by Johann Hye-Knudsen. It was the premiere recording of the piece.

Jean Sibelius: The Musical Voice of Finland

Jean Sibelius was born in 1865 near Helsinki. He played the violin, and began composing at the age of ten. As a youngster, he studied the poetry and mythology of his native Finland... in particular the folk tales known as the Kalevala. At first, he seemed destined for a more ordinary career, but in his early 20s, he abandoned study of the law in favor of a musical education at the Helsinki Music Institute. He later studied in Berlin and Vienna, and with the publication of his first symphony, it became clear that a new musical voice was on the scene. Around the turn of the century, Russia was putting pressure on the Finns. Sibelius' best known composition, Finlandia became a rallying point for his countrymen. His fervently nationalistic music made him a hero, and his music spread the Finnish cause to the entire world.

Stylistically, Sibelius worked within traditional forms, but sought to simplify and streamline the internal structure of the music. He created a highly unique "sound world" with harmonies and sonorities that evoked the feeling of the Scandinavian countryside. Tapiola has been described as being to the Northern forests what Debussy's La Mer is to the sea. It describes the power and beauty of nature with amazing force and grandeur. The conductor and composer Constant Lambert praised Tapiola by saying, "Sibelius, like a Newton or an Einstein, revealed the electrifying possibilities that are latent in the apparently commonplace." Pohjola's Daughter gave Sibelius the opportunity to illustrate a folktale from the beloved Finnish saga, the Kalevala. The hero of the story, Vainamoinen asks the maiden to marry him. She agrees, but sets impossible tasks for Vainemoinen to accomplish before they can wed. Sibelius' masterful orchestral suites are colorful and full of variety. They're bracing and pure, like water from a cold mountain spring. Great conductors, including Wood, Toscanini, Richter and even Richard Strauss championed his music. But Sibelius wasn't satisfied. He was plagued by self-doubt, and was highly critical of his own work, going so far as to rewrite or even destroy drafts of pieces that he wasn't satisfied with.

The composition of the Fifth Symphony was a terrific struggle for Sibelius. Originally, it had four movements, but a year after its debut, he combined the first two movements into a single unit. Four years later, he was still dissatisfied, and rewrote the entire work, settling on the version we are familiar with today. There is no question that his revisions were a great improvement. The Fifth Symphony in its completed form evokes a certain feeling of timelessness. From the organic build up of the first movement, to the reflective tranquility of the second, to the powerful horns of the third and the stabbing chords that end the work... Sibelius had created a truly great symphony worthy of standing alongside those of Beethoven.

But to the musical society of the time who championed forward thinking composers like Stravinsky and Schoenberg, Sibelius was seen as a hopelessly reactionary nationalist working in outdated forms. His austere classicism seemed out of touch with the changes in society following the first World War. In all, Sibelius composed seven symphonies, a violin concerto and a number of amazingly beautiful tone poems over a period of about thirty years. But with the completion of Tapiola in 1926, he ceased composing altogether. Sibelius lived for another thirty years in retirement, offering no explanation for his withdrawl from the musical scene. He turned his back on his continually growing international fame, and refused to travel outside of Finland. It was speculated that his self-doubt and the criticism of the musical elite had silenced him.

The Conductor... Robert Kajanus

These legendary recordings were made in June of 1932 by Sibelius' friend, Robert Kajanus. Kajanus was instrumental to the tremendous growth of Finnish music through the turn of the century, founding the Helsinki Philharmonic and leading it for over fifty years. He composed several notable orchestral works, including the tone poem Aino, based on a folk tale from the Kalevala. But when he came in contact with the music of Sibelius, he set aside composing for a career as a conductor. He worked closely with Sibelius on his interpretations, and his recordings of the First, Second, Third and Fifth symphonies have come to be regarded as definitive.

Kajanus told an amusing story about his friendship with Sibelius... He was dining in a small restaurant outside of Helsinki with Sibelius and a group of friends, when he revealed that he would have to leave soon to conduct a performance of the Helsinki Philharmonic. Sibelius protested his departure, arguing that an assistant could easily conduct in his absence. Kajanus reluctantly excused himself to make a phone call to let the theater manager know he wouldn't be able to make it to the performance. But when he got to the phone, he felt guilty for neglecting his responsibility. He picked up his hat and coat and took the train to Helsinki without saying goodbye to the group. He conducted the program, returned on the night train and arrived back again at the restaurant to find Sibelius and company still ensconced just as he had left them. As he sat back down at the table, Sibelius looked over at him and said, "My! That was a long phone call!"
Title: Re: Kajanus Conducts Sibelius
Post by: david johnson on June 26, 2012, 11:30:28 PM
listening to the tapiola now...on the 'other' site  :)  thanx.