The Jean Sibelius Edition - 150th Anniversary Box set
Few pioneering recordings from any era burn with greater passionate intensity or recreative spark than those set down in London during the early 1930s by the Finnish maestro Robert Kajanus (1856-1933). They were originally issued on Columbia 78s and the first two volumes of HMV’s Sibelius Society series, and the repertoire embraced Symphonies Nos 1‑3 and 5, Tapiola, Pohjola’s Daughter, Belshazzar’s Feast, and the ‘Intermezzo’ and ‘Alla marcia’ from the Karelia Suite. The septuagenarian’s identification with his countryman’s music is total, and his dedicated interpretations distil an elemental power, entrancing poetic reach and lofty sweep that continue to astonish. Kajanus’s towering legacy is one of the many reasons to invest in Warner Classics’ seven-CD Historical Recordings and Rarities, Beecham’s 1935‑39 LPO recordings being another – try the wild ride that is Lemminkäinen’s Return to hear this legendary partnership operating at full throttle. Koussevitzky’s volcanic live BBC SO Seventh (Queen’s Hall, May 1933) is here too, as are Boult’s conspicuously vital readings of Night Ride and Sunrise, The Oceanides and Romance with the same band. Rarities elsewhere include soprano Helmi Liukkonen’s plucky concert performance of Luonnotar (from June 4, 1934, at Queen’s Hall) with the Helsinki PO under Georg Schnéevoigt; five songs from contralto Marian Anderson partnered by Kosti Vehanen (Paris, 1936); and Sibelius himself conducting the Andante festivo (Berlin, 1939). Transfers have been consistently well made, and Robert Layton provides an absorbing booklet essay.