Complete Sibelius Symphonies: Paavo Berglund’s 1972-74 Bournemouth Cycle

22 Jan 2013 – Good news – the late Paavo Berglund’s Bournemouth Sibelius Symphonies cycle, reviewed below, has been reissued by EMI. Available at Amazon and other fine stores.

27 Jan 2012 – Sadly, I must update this vintage review of mine with the news that Paavo Berglund passed away at home in Helsinki on 25 January 2012.

During the 1950s, Sibelius himself heard Berglund conduct some of his symphonies as well as the Rakastava Suite. The composer praised Berglund and told him how much he had enjoyed the performances. Besides leading the re-premiere of the Kullervo Symphony in 1972, Berglund’s work on the critical editions of the Seventh Symphony are hugely important. When he conducted the symphony with the Helsinki Philharmonic, he noticed that the musicians were playing from parts that Sibelius had personally corrected. Discrepancies existing in existing printed editions led him to embark on the necessary research to bring to print a new critical edition of the Seventh by Hansen in 1980. His recording of the Seventh Symphony with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra remains, in my opinion, one of the most revelatory experiences of this monumental work.  (It should be noted with much regret, however, that this cycle does not appear to be in circulation in the market. I.e. it is not available commercially.)

I’m saddened by the fact that, although I have lived during Mr Berglund’s lifetime, I did not have an opportunity to see him conduct. I would have dearly wished to give him a copy of this 12-year-old review. May the poetry of the Kalevala and the sounds of Finland follow him in restful peace.

Paavo Berglund - Photo by Clive BardaPaavo Berglund (1929 – 2012)
Photo by Clive Barda (desingel.de)

Grandmaster of Finnish Sibelian conductors Paavo Berglund (1929 – 2012) is comparatively not well-known among collectors of Sibelius records. And yet, he is not only instrumental in the editions to the scores, but has unique insights into the music which no other conductor has demonstrated, in all my listening experience for these works. Berglund’s recordings with the Bournemouth Symphony, with whom he is Conductor Emeritus, have been unavailable for so long that they have virtually reached mythical status.

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