Finnish conductor and Sibelius champion Paavo Berglund dies, aged 82


Finnish conductor Paavo Berglund died yesterday. The highly respected interpreter of orchestral works by Jean Sibelius was 82.

Berglund had been in declining health for several years, and withdrew from concert life in 2007.

He left behind great recordings with several great orchestras. I am particularly fond of the clarity and pacing of his Sibelius recordings with the Helsinki Philharmonic, where he was music director in the late-1970s.

He came and showed off his Nordic skills in Toronto, at the invitation of then Toronto Symphony Orchestra music director Jukka-Pekka Saraste, giving three performances of a Sibelius and Nielsen programme at the start of the 1993-94 season, with violinist Cho-Liang Lin performing the Sibelius Violin Concerto.

Berglund had a reputation as a taskmaster, but counted a wide circle of influential friends and supporters.

He held posts as principal conductor at the Finnish Radio Symphony (his first full-size orchestra, where he started as associate conductor), the Stockholm Philharmonic, the Royal Danish Orchestra and the Bournemouth Symphony, with whom he also recorded.

Over the course of a nearly 60-year working life, Berglund stood on the podium of the world’s finest orchestras as an evangelist of the music of Finland. These included the Berlin Philharmonic, the London Symphony, the Dresden Staatskapelle, the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, the New York Philharmonic and the Cleveland Orchestra. Berglund served as principal conductor of the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, the Stockholm Philharmonic, the Royal Danish and Scottish National orchestras.

Berglund counted one Grammy nomination among his accolades, for the world-premiere recording of Sibelius’s Kullervo.

Born in Helsinki on April 14, 1929, Berglund started with violin studies and co-founded the Helsinki Chamber Orchestra in 1953.

(I’ll add links to obituaries as I find them.)

Here is Berglund leading the Japan Philharmonic in Sibelius’s 5th, in December, 1971:

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2 thoughts on “Finnish conductor and Sibelius champion Paavo Berglund dies, aged 82

  1. Pingback: R.I.P. Paavo Berglund

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