Paavo Berglund: Andrew Mellor Celebrates the Perfectionist Finnish Conductor Who Not Only Breathed Life into Orchestral Culture in His Homeland but Also Introduced Many across the World to Sibelius

By Mellor, Andrew | Gramophone, December 2017 | Go to article overview

Paavo Berglund: Andrew Mellor Celebrates the Perfectionist Finnish Conductor Who Not Only Breathed Life into Orchestral Culture in His Homeland but Also Introduced Many across the World to Sibelius


Mellor, Andrew, Gramophone


Five years before his death, Paavo Berglund (1929-2012) conducted for the last time. The ensemble was the Radio France Philharmonic Orchestra, and on the programme, naturally, was Sibelius. Specifically, it was his Fourth Symphony. Berglund talked down his connection to the composer (they met just once) and dismissed claims that Sibelius's music was a personal speciality as an invention of the record industry. But anyone who saw Berglund conduct would be hard-pushed to think of a work that better encapsulates his fearsome, granitic podium manner.

Like that symphony, Berglund was uncompromising and often intimidating. In rehearsal he was as economical with pleasantries as he was haranguing with the baton, frequently staring-down his musicians in a frown, hurling monosyllabic commands over the top of the orchestral melee. He was not in the profession to be liked, but liked he was. Musicians enjoyed his focus on detail and balance, his apparently endless ability to hear new things in old warhorses and his encouragement of sensitivity, particularly from brass sections. Comparing his final Sibelius performances in London (2003-06) with his earliest recorded cycle made more than three decades earlier, it is clear that there was more to Berglund's interpretations than the stern, literal approach for which he is often remembered.

Still, Berglund's reputation for focusing on the score--or his version of it--is well founded. He once travelled to Edinburgh to conduct Sibelius's Rakastava with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, taking with him parts marked up by the composer. It was an early experience conducting the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra in the Seventh Symphony that prompted Berglund to create a thorough analysis of the mistakes in the printed score (in comparison with Sibelius's manuscript) and contribute to the creation of a new edition of the piece. 'Almost everything has to be corrected,' the conductor said of Sibelius in 1995. He wasn't averse to retouching Sibelius's orchestrations to make certain elements speak more clearly.

Berglund was an orchestral musician through and through, a left-handed violinist who once played the Franck Violin Sonata switching between an adapted instrument and a standard one. He first conducted the orchestra in which he then played--the Finnish RSO having been overheard criticising the booked maestro and subsequently challenged to prove he could do better. He went on to transform the ensemble as its chief conductor (as well as establishing an in-house football team), setting standards that some say led to a turning point in Finnish orchestral life.

His perfectionism was hard to take at times, as was his manner of communication in an age of huge transition for the profession. Although close friends talk of his openness and warmth, the composer Aulis Sallinen, sometime manager of the Finnish RSO, admitted that Berglund's reign at the orchestra was 'demanding' for both management and players. But international orchestras responded well to the more experienced Berglund's clarity and straight-talking logic--qualities that were particularly apparent in his Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich and Nielsen.

Berglund's recorded repertoire ranges from Mozart to Joonas Kokkonen via Smetana, Nielsen, Sibelius, Rachmaninov, Shostakovich and more. His concert repertoire included a sizeable chunk of British music, much of it learnt during his time as chief conductor in Bournemouth. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Paavo Berglund: Andrew Mellor Celebrates the Perfectionist Finnish Conductor Who Not Only Breathed Life into Orchestral Culture in His Homeland but Also Introduced Many across the World to Sibelius
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.