Kajanus is said to have been a calm, even-tempered conductor. His readings were moderate, refined and carefully deliberated, his movements elegant. At the time, Aino Ackté the opera singer was admittedly critical of the way he handled his orchestra, claiming he did not enforce sufficient discipline.
Kajanus was very much at home in symphonic repertoire. This was only natural for a conductor with such a long career behind him. Of the symphonists, he particularly admired Beethoven – but also his friend Sibelius. During his term as conductor, the number of symphony concerts forming the backbone of the orchestra’s repertoire became established at sixteen per year. Additional symphony concerts were also given. The popularity of concerts of light music and their number steadily declined. The orchestra played at a large number of theatre and opera performances.
During the 1920s, Kajanus, known to have a special liking for Classical-Romantic repertoire, conducted Igor Stravinsky Firebird (1924) and Pulcinella (1929) in Finland. In 1926, he added Arthur Honegger’s Pacific 231 to the repertoire, followed in the 1930s by works by Hindemith, Prokofiev, Ravel and Franck.
There were many reasons to celebrate during Kajanus’s watch at the helm of the City Orchestra (1914–1932): Sibelius’s 50th birthday in 1915, and at ten year intervals thereafter; in 1926, Kajanus himself had a concert for his 70th birthday; 1927 was the centenary of Beethoven’s death and 1928 of Schubert’s. In 1932, the orchestra reached the age of 50 and marked the occasion with a huge gala concert at the National Theatre that was attended by the Finnish President, University dignitaries and the Cabinet. A National Choir joined the orchestra for a performance of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony at what was also Kajanus’s farewell concert.
Source: Einari Marvia & Matti Vainio – Helsingin kaupunginorkesteri 1882–1982