Paavo Berglund: The Warner Edition. Complete EMI Classics & Finlandia Recordings. © 2024 Parlophone Records Ltd


Absolute Brilliance

GERALD FENECH recommends Warner Classics' forty-two disc set of recordings by Paavo Berglund

'... a precious treasure-trove packed with musical diamonds that took twenty-seven years to complete.'


Born in Helsinki on 14 April 1929, Paavo Berglund is undoubtedly Finland's greatest conductor of the twentieth century. At age eleven he started learning the violin and in 1949, aged twenty, he joined the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra. Three years later he was one of the founder members, and the first conductor, of the Helsinki Chamber Orchestra, the purpose of which was to expand the repertoire and improve the profile of musical performance in the Finnish capital.

He became assistant conductor of the Finnish RSO and, from 1962 to 1971, was its chief conductor. Having considerably raised the standards of the orchestra, he was able to take it to the USSR, Germany and Britain. He also went on to become principal conductor of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra (1972-79), as well as musical director and principal conductor of the Royal Danish Orchestra (1993-1998), recording with the latter a cycle of the Carl Nielsen Symphonies that was praised for its insight and integrity.

Listen — Nielsen: Tempo giusto (Symphony No 5, Op 50)
(5054197661501 CD9 track 1, 8:34-9:24) ℗ 2024 Parlophone Records Ltd :

Notorious, especially in his earlier years, for his tough and uncompromising manner with musicians, he was also intensely self-critical, and has remained famous for his understanding of Jean Sibelius. Indeed, throughout his career his knowledge of this composer was always evolving and, trying to seek perfection, Berglund recorded three cycles of the master's symphonies. Having discovered that the scores that were traditionally played were full of errors, Berglund embarked on an interventionist exercise to correct Sibelius's own scoring which created problems in performance. After all, these amendments had only one objective: that of defining moments being allowed to speak clearly and potently.

Listen — Sibelius: Symphony No 7 in C
(5054197661501 CD28 track 8, 1:26-2:23) ℗ 2024 Parlophone Records Ltd :

Berglund died on 25 January 2012, leaving for posterity an immense treasure of stellar recordings that encompass a considerable number of composers. Besides much music of his homeland and Scandinavia in general, he was able to demonstrate his prowess in Russian music, particularly Shostakovich, and flair for British music including Vaughan Williams and Bliss.

Listen — Arthur Bliss: Allegro (Cello Concerto)
(5054197661501 CD1 track 3, 0:00-0:57) ℗ 2024 Parlophone Records Ltd :

This forty-two disc set, which covers recordings made between 1970 and 1997, is indeed the finest tribute to the art of Berglund that one can imagine, and the composers represented are some of the greatest in music history, but some lesser known names are also included.

Listen — Schalaster: Moldavian Dance Liana
(5054197661501 CD42 track 6, 0:32-0:52) ℗ 2024 Parlophone Records Ltd :

Here is the full menu: Alfvén, Bliss, Brahms, Britten, Bull, Dvořák, Franck, Glazunov, Glinka, Grieg, Halvorsen, Järnefelt, Nielsen, Prokofiev, Rachmaninov, Rimsky-Korsakov, Schalaster, Schumann, Shostakovich, Sibelius, Smetana, Vaughan Williams, Walton and Yardumian, together with a host of singers, instrumentalists and orchestras.

Listen — Richard Yardumian: Recitative (Piano Concerto)
(5054197661501 CD5 track 13, 4:51-5:44) ℗ 2024 Parlophone Records Ltd :

This is not just an anthology dedicated to a particular conductor but a precious treasure-trove packed with musical diamonds that took twenty-seven years to complete. Absolute brilliance and consummate mastery - an exhilarating experience. The perfect treat to start 2024.

Copyright © 19 February 2024 Gerald Fenech,
Gzira, Malta



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