Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

WORKS: Finnish Rhapsody No. 1; Kullervo’s Funeral March; Sinfonietta; Aino
PERFORMER: Helsinki University Chorus, Lahti SO/Osmo Vänskä
Robert Kajanus was Sibelius’s most fervent early advocate, conducting all his major works. In the early Thirties he made the first recordings with the LSO of four of the symphones as well as Pohjola’s Daughter, Tapiola and Belshazzar’s Feast. It was he who founded the Helsinki Orchestra in 1882 and over the years also introduced Finnish audiences to unfamiliar new music by Franck, Ravel, Stravinsky, Honegger and Hindemith. It was a performance of his Aino symphony (or rather symphonic poem for male chorus and orchestra) that Kajanus gave with the Berlin Philharmonic that inspired Sibelius to compose his Kullervo Symphony. Before Sibelius’s breakthrough with Kullervo in 1892, Kajanus made a considerable name for himself as a composer, but his energies became increasingly consumed by conducting. His early music is typical of the national Romanticism of the period but, although his is not a strongly distinctive voice, it is far from negligible. The Sinfonietta of 1915 is an inventive and resourceful score, eclectic and cultured, elegantly laid out for the orchestra and a welcome discovery to which I will certainly be returning. Osmo Vänskä and the Lahti SO play with fervour and conviction and the BIS recording is outstanding in its realism. Robert Layton