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FINLAND
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Finnish 19th-century history was dominated by Czarist Russia, which allowed the Finns autonomy as a Grand Duchy until the end of the century, when a policy of Russification was imposed. However, Finnish cultural roots have always been Scandinavian, while the origins of composition in 19th-century Finland were German; consequently Russian influences on the music of Finland are limited. The major Finnish composers during the 19th century had come from Germany, notably Fredik Pacius (1809-1891) and Richard Faltin (1835-1919), both of whom made important teaching contributions to the growing Finnish musical life. But it was not until 1882, when Martin Wegelius (1846-1906) founded the Helsinki Institute of Music (now called the Sibelius Academy) in 1882, and Robert Kajanus (1856-1933) founded what was to become the Helsinki Symphony Orchestra, that the foundations for a widespread indigenous composition were laid.

Immediately a Finnish composer of international importance emerged. Finnish music at the turn of the century was dominated by the commanding figure of Jean Sibelius (1865-1957), who achieved international popularity (especially in Great Britain) with his tone-poems and with his series of seven symphonies. The sense of the Northern landscape and emotions that these symphonies evoked has never been matched; in addition, his development of the symphonic form marked a new evolution of the symphony, and with Mahler and Nielsen he is the most important symphonist of the first part of the 20th century. He ceased composing in 1929, while working on an unfinished eighth symphony.

The dominance of Sibelius has obscured the very real merits of other Finnish composers of the same generation. Erkki Melartin (1875-1937), philosopher, mystic, naturalist and painter, produced a huge output (including some 300 songs) in a style that ranged from a lyrical Romanticism to a restrained Expressionism. His most important works are his six symphonies, of which the Symphony No.6 (1924) exemplifies both the Expressionism, in the martially turbulent opening movement, and the nature-painting Romantic hue in much of the rest of the symphony. He was an influential teacher. Selim Palmgren (1878-1951), perhaps the most conservative of this group, concentrated on piano music and five piano concertos. Leevi Madetoja (1887-1947) composed three fine symphonies, as well as the quintessential Finnish opera, Pohjalaisia (1924). Yrjö Kilpinen (1892-1952) concentrated on lieder of a high quality, with some eight hundred songs and only a few instrumental works in his output. Aarre Merikanto (1893-1958) is not to be confused with his father Oskar Merikanto (1868-1924), who wrote the first Finnish opera (Pohjan Neiti [The Maid of Pohja]). He himself is now best known for the opera Juha (1922), to a story based on a folk-novel by Juhani Aho, whose vocal lines have a close correspondence with the rise and fall of speech; it is not to be confused with the opera of the same title and subject by Madetoja. Merikanto's version was not performed until 1963, in part because his idiom had generally been considered too advanced - he had come under the influence of Schoenberg's atonalism as early as 1925 - but has taken its place with Pohjalaisia as the cornerstone of Finnish opera. Towards the end of his life Merikanto became important as a teacher.

The vitality of Finnish composition was then enhanced by four powerful composers born between the two World Wars, three of whom have revived Finnish opera with considerable success. Eric Bergman (born 1911) is an outstanding composer of choral and vocal works, combining delicacy of texture and effect with sureness of word-setting. Joonas Kokkonen (born 1921) has concentrated on orchestral and instrumental writing with a mystical atmosphere, and more recently opera. Einojuhani Rautavaara (born 1928), the least-known of this group, has written in most genres, and is one of the European mainstream composers who has benefited from the example of Berg. Currently, he is most likely to be heard in vocal and choral works, often with a strong visionary element, ranging from the rather disappointing Suite de Lorca (1973) for unaccompanied chorus, which misses the passion and colours of Lorca's poems (especially when compared with the settings by Ohana), to the wide-ranging choral techniques (including cluster effects and chant) of the very effective The Cathedral (1983), also for unaccompanied chorus, which muses on man's existence. He has written a number of operas, including Kaivos (The Mine, 1957-1963), Thomas (completed 1985), and notably Vincent (completed 1990). The literate, Expressionist libretto of Vincent, by the composer himself, follows Van Gogh's life through a kind of dream flash-back sequence of scenes, far more tautly constructed than the similar technique in Kokkonen's The Last Temptations. The themes are the place of the visionary in both religious and artistic terms (there are strong religious overtones throughout the work), the place of reality (Van Gogh's flashbacks are part reality, part illusion) and its relationship to sanity, and satire on the uncomprehending experts in his life, who are intentionally parody figures. The drama is taut, the music often dark, with a Northern rather than a Dutch hue, the overall tone Expressionist (distantly looking back to the example of Berg). Each of the three Acts is preceded by very effective orchestral preludes depicting one Van Gogh painting, and the orchestral writing is built on 12-tone series, while the vocal lines are intended to be more lyrically flowing. This difficult but intense opera is recommended. Aulis Sallinen (born 1935) started as a 12-tone composer, but moved into a freer idiom, notably in his powerful symphonies and in his operas.

Besides these four composers, there is also an impressive group of less well-known figures of the same generation. Seppo Nummi (1932-1981) is remembered for his outstanding song cycles and songs, rooted in folk-music traditions. The neo-classical Einar Englund (born 1916) came to prominence through the symphonic poem Epinika and two large-scale symphonies (the Symphony No.2, 1948 has an evocative nocturne as a slow movement), abandoned symphonic works for many years (with a compositional silence from 1960 to 1966), and suddenly in the 1970s produced three new symphonies, and three concertos, including the Concerto for Twelve Cellos. Of these, the Symphony No.4 (1976) for strings and percussion is a tribute to Shostakovich, using many of the Russian composer's stylistic features. He is best known for his piano music, and for the Piano Concerto No.1 (1955). Paavo Heininen (born 1938) has written expressive works in most genre, including the chamber opera The Silken Drum (1983), based on a nō play, but is best known for his handling of very large orchestral forces, with a wide range of colour effects. Of the younger composers, Kalevi Aho (born 1949) has received attention; his output includes a large number of symphonies influenced by Shostakovich. The Symphony No.4 (1972), whose three movements are based on a triple fugue, is a huge, uneven, over-blown but sometimes impressive edifice, a Finnish equivalent to the symphonies of the Swede Pettersson. His interesting String Quartet No.3 (1971) is in seven sections, covering a very wide range of neo-Romantic effect, from Minimalism to the fugue and suggestions of Shostakovich, from the tonal to the harmonically astringent. He has also written a one-man opera, The Key (1979). Also worthy of mention is Otto Donner (born 1939), the most experimental of his generation of Finnish composers whose works often have a rebellious sense of humour, and Jouni Kaipainen (born 1956), who with Kaija Saariaho (born 1952), Olli Kortekangas (born 1955), Magnus Lindberg (born 1958) and Esa-Pekka Salonen (born 1958 and best known as a conductor) founded the `Ears Open' movement, dedicated to absorbing the avant-garde and elements of rock music into Finnish composition.

Finland produced an outstanding conductor in Robert Kajanus (1856-1933), whose interpretations of Sibelius are outstanding and fortunately preserved in recording, and who greatly improved the standard of orchestral playing in Finland.


Finish Music Information Centre:
Suomalaisen Musiikin Tiedotuskeskus
Runeberginkatu 15 A
SF-00100 Helsinki 10
Finland
tel: +358 0 409134
fax: +358 0 409634


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BERGMAN

KOKKONEN
MADETOJA
SALLINEN
SIBELIUS




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BERGMAN Erik Valdemar
born 24th November 1911 at Nykarleby
died 24th April 2006
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Erik Bergman has a high reputation in Finland for the application of new musical languages to the Finnish choral tradition in an individual, unostentatious voice, and for his orchestral works, which include four concertos. He is less well known outside Finland (this in part stems from the unfamiliarity of singers with the Finnish language), but his choral works are outstanding in their marriage of musical and verbal evocation.

His earliest music was in the Finnish mainstream tradition, and he attracted attention in Finland with Rubaiyat (1953) for baritone, male chorus and orchestra, setting verses by Omar Khayyam. After this work he adopted 12-tone and serial techniques (the latter especially in the areas of rhythm and colour), and in the late 1960s introduced mild improvisatory and aleatoric elements into his work. An interest in the folk-music of the Near East has added an exoticism of colour and a sense of the mystic, and he has often preferred a refined instrumental texture, with tuned percussion and woodwind, which Bergman himself has called `refined primitivism'.

Bergman reached an international audience with his serial Aubade op.48 (1958) for orchestra, which is evocatively tinged with the colours drawn from his study of folk-music in Turkey and Egypt. It was followed by a cantata, Aton (1959) for speaker, baritone, chorus and orchestra, whose text is a translation of Pharaoh Akhenaton's Hymn to the Sun; the chorus use speaking and whispering effects. Bergman's powers of evocation through the combination of musical landscape and words is exemplified in the outstanding Fåglarna op.56a (The Birds, 1962) for baritone, five solo voices, male chorus, percussion and celesta, a setting of a poem by Bergman's wife, the poetess Solveig von Schoultz. The baritone has the role of the persona of the poem, the soloists the gathering of birds with emotive effects, the chorus an atmospheric backdrop of clusters and other effects such as verbal ostinati, tinted by high, delicate percussion, with lower percussion creating drama. Nox op.65 (1970) for baritone, chorus, flute, cor anglais and percussion is a setting of four poems about night, with a similar use of soloist and chorus in the first poem (by Quasimodo), an evocation of the noisier sounds of night with clanging percussion and ostinati xylophone in the second (by Arp), a lover's night with tinkling percussion in the third (by Eluard), and a bonfire dance in the last (by Eliot), opening with the shades of night on flute and cor anglais, and continuing with improvisatory dancing drums.

Colori ed Improvvisazioni op.72 (1973) for orchestra explored subtle colours and their mutations, exotic percussion prominent. Noa op.78 (1976) for baritone, chorus and orchestra is based on the manipulation of fifteen Hebrew words from the Biblical story of Noah and the flood, with a wide range of vocal effects. Bim Bam Bum op.80 (1976) for reciter, tenor, male chorus, flute and varied percussion from prepared piano to conch-shell (played by a percussionist and members of the chorus), sets poems by Christian Morgenstern; readers should not be put off by the apparent flippancy of the title, for this is an evocative cycle of considerable power, a sardonic humour lying mainly in the verses. The third song (`Fish's Night Song') is a graphic poem without words, instrumentally recreated entirely with unpitched notes. The delicate variety of the instruments is considerable, their pitches often unsubstantiated, and against this the choral writing is often almost tonally chordal; the overall effect is both appealing and haunting. The last song shows his predilection for marrying the spoken or half-spoken word with music, a technique he learnt from his Swiss teacher Vladimir Vogel. The Hathor Suite op.70 (1971) for soprano, baritone, chorus, flute, cor anglais, harp and percussion, returns to ancient Egypt, using translations of cult-texts to the cow-goddess Hat-Hor, consort of the sun-god Re (Ra), freely translated into German by Siegfried Schott. There is a stronger sense of ritual about this piece, partly through the instrumental effects and the slow rhythmic progression (it makes an interesting comparison with the Canadian Murray Schafer's Ra).

A completely different side of Bergman's interest in sonority and colour is shown in the impressive String Quartet op.98 (1982) of compelling logic and taut, almost exhausting, emotions. The opening movement is expressive and dramatic, exploiting the full range of string effects, as if the spirit of Bartók had been transported into the North of the 1980s; the moods that follow range from the serene and melancholic to grinding violence that turns into anxious breathing effects, as if from an organ (Bergman wrote an influential organ work, Exsultate in 1954), and stark insistence on the attempt at resolution.

Few composers have used the languages developed in the avant-garde period with such delicacy, nuance, and underlying lyricism in vocal works, and those interested in modern choral music are encouraged to discover the music of Bergman. He taught at the Sibelius Academy (1963-1976), and he has a wide reputation as a choral director, of the Akademiska Sångföreningen, Muntra Musikanter, and the Helsinki Catholic Church Choir.
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works include:
- chamber symphony Silence and Eruptions
- cello concerto; flute concerto; piano concerto; violin concerto
- Ananke, Artica, Aubade, Circulus, Colori ed improvvisazioni, Simbolo for orch.
- string quartet; Concertino de camera for 8 instrumental soloists; Energien for harpsichord
- Lament and Inclination for soprano and cello; cantatas Anon and Sela; Adagio for baritone, male chorus, flute and vibraphone; Bim Bam Bum for reciter, tenor, male chorus, flute and percussion; Fåglarna (Birds) for baritone, male chorus, celesta and percussion; Hathor Suite for soprano, baritone, chorus, flute, cor anglais, harp and percussion; Noa (1976) for baritone, chorus and orch.; Nox for baritone, chorus, flute, cor anglais and percussion; Rubaiyat for baritone, male chorus and orch.; other choral works including Bardo Thödol, Drei Galgenlieder, Lapponia, Lemminkäinen, Noa and Vier Galgenlieder
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recommended works:
Aubade op.48 (1958) for orchestra
Bim Bam Bum op.80 (1976) for reciter, tenor, male chorus, flute and percussion
Colori ed Improvvisazioni op.72 (1973) for orchestra
Fåglarna op.56a (The Birds, 1962) for baritone, 5 solo voices, male chorus, percussion and celesta
String Quartet op.98 (1982)
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KOKKONEN Joonas
born 13th November 1921 at Iisalmi
died 2nd October 1996 at Järvenpää
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Joonas Kokkonen was one of the better-known of his generation of Finnish composers, who followed a mainstream, mostly orchestral, path. Much of his early work was for chamber forces, including the String Quartet No.1 (1949), and in neo-classical style. The work that brought him attention was Music for Strings (1957), symphonic in scale and in the layout of the four movements, which shows his predilection for alternating darker, pessimistic passages with brighter, more hopeful ideas. In it he combined neo-classical elements with 12-tone ideas, and for a short period 12-tone principles guided his structures, including those of the Symphony No.1 (1958-1960). From the early 1960s this developed into the synthesis common to many European mainstream composers of tonal, chromatic and occasional 12-tone harmonic elements. But in Kokkonen's case structures are often built on one or two initial motives that provide the basic material for the whole work, combined with rhythmic energy and an increasing command of orchestral colour. Of his other symphonies, the tautly argued Symphony No.4 (1971) is the most impressive, while the Symphony No.3 `Sinfonia da camera' (1962) for strings gave Kokkonen an international reputation; its uses the B-A-C-H motto theme (H = German for B♮). The alternations of dark and light shading, the strong influence of neo-classicism, and the synthesis of harmonic systems, as well as the characteristic impression of rugged solidity, are well expressed in ...durch einen Spiegel (Through a Mirror, 1977) for twelve strings and cembalo. This effective and extensive work of symphonic proportions has both rhythmic drive and moments of mystical atmosphere, with the strong contrast between cembalo and strings providing continual interest. In Finland Kokkonen has sometimes been compared to Britten, and in many passages of this work, particularly when a long flowing line unfolds over chattering strings, the analogy is apt.

However, it was Kokkonen's opera Viimeiset kiusaukset (The Last Temptations, 1973-1975) that brought his name to a wider audience outside Finland, and it is a work that almost succeeds in spite of itself. Based on a play by his cousin, Lauri Kokkonen, its central figure is the early 19th-century evangelical leader Paavo Ruotsalainen, who, lying on his death-bed, has a series of quasi-naturalistic dream-flashbacks showing his single-mindedness, his abuse of his family, and his arguments with established dogma. The first fatal flaw of the libretto is that all this is announced in the opening introductory scene, mostly semi-spoken against the orchestra; any sense of dramatic expectation or progression is destroyed at a stroke. Its second is a basic contradiction: the first Act, which is essentially about the strongly-drawn character of his first wife Riitta, shows the dysfunctional result of religious fanaticism on the family, while the second, mainly concerned with Paavo, seems to condone this religious fanaticism. Nonetheless, Kokkonen almost succeeds in making this ill-considered libretto viable by the sheer energy of his music, which drives the momentum on, notably in the power of the fourth scene, or the folk-dance in scene seven. Certain symbols recur - the images of frost and of opening the gate into heaven, and the use of hymn-tunes - and the music, symphonically laid out, is extraordinarily eclectic, drawing on the experience of Nielsen (in the opening), Janáček and the Shostakovich of Lady Macbeth of the Mtensk District (in scene seven), among others, but most successfully welded into a personal idiom. Though the lack of character in the libretto (the secondary characters are all cyphers) inevitably leads to a certain lack of character in the score, this opera is worth encountering.

Of his other vocal works, the beguiling Requiem (1981) for soprano, baritone, chorus and orchestra, is surprisingly straightforward and conservative in its harmonic idiom. Composed in memory of his wife, Kokkonen intended it to be positive, and it is indeed uplifting, rhythmically vital, the choral lines tending towards a higher range to create a sense of joy, with touches of bright detail from the orchestra. Amateur choral societies with access to a reasonable orchestra might well consider this work, which is well within such abilities, and would give much pleasure.


Kokkonen taught at the Sibelius Academy from 1950 to 1963.
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works include:
- 4 symphonies; Sinfonia de camera for 12 strings
- cello concerto
- Inauguratio and Opus sonorum for orch.; Music for Strings; ...durch einen Spiegel for 12 strings and cembalo
- cello sonata; Duo for violin and piano; piano trio; 3 string quartets; piano quintet; wind quintet
- sonatine for piano; Five Bagatelles for piano
- song cycles Four songs to poems of Uuno Kailas, Illat (Evenings); suite Lintujen tuonela (The Birds' Land of Death) for voice and orch.; Missa a cappella, Requiem (in memoriam Maija Kokkonen) for soloists, chorus and orch. and other vocal and choral works
- opera Viimeiset kiusaukset
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recommended works:
...durch einen Spiegel (Through a Mirror, 1977) for 12 strings and cembalo
Symphony No.4 (1971)
opera The Last Temptations (Viimeiset kiusaukset, 1973-1975)
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MADETOJA Leevi Antti
born 17th February 1887 at Oulu
died 6th October 1947 at Helsinki
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The works of Leevi Madetoja have been overshadowed by those of his contemporary Sibelius, and his supposed debt to the older composer has been overstated, even if the influence is audible from time to time (as is that of Tchaikovsky in Madetoja's early works). His idiom is post-Romantic, analogous perhaps to the earlier works of Vaughan Williams. But he has an individual voice, sometimes imitating or quoting folk-song and often using melodies with a modal cast, with a strong Scandinavian instinct for nature, of a more pastoral vista than Sibelius - as if surveying the farmed lands rather than the raw coastline.


In particular, Madetoja's three symphonies deserve to be better known. The central slow movement of the three-movement Symphony No.1 op.29 (1914-1915) is a marvellous creation, opening with a slow, unsettled, swelling seascape of dark colours, building up to the rumblings of a storm and dying away again. The almost polytonal woodwind ostinati are more reminiscent of Nielsen than Sibelius. The finale is bold and individual, with a close, surrounded by fanfares, of considerable nobility. The Symphony No.2 op.35 (1926) has a magical opening of pastoral pleasure, with a dancing woodwind figure over held horns and a string melody; the influence of Sibelius emerges in the subsequent build-up of tension. The slow movement is linked without a break, and uses material based on a shepherdess's song heard by Madetoja. The combination of the two movements, with horn calls and a return of the shepherd song ending the andante, is an exceptionally attractive pastoral evocation. The last two movements are also played without a break, but the furious third movement completely changes the tone, while the short fourth acts as an epilogue, returning to the tranquillity of the opening with a mysterious and tonally ambiguous atmosphere that evolves into a beautiful golden light. The symphony is linked thematically (the second theme of the opening, which itself is evolved from the first, reappears in the third movement), and should give much pleasure to those who hunt it out. The Symphony No.3 op.55 (1925-1926) has a very different feel. Partly written in France, its lighter textures, at times creating the sound of a chamber orchestra, and its gentle and graceful good humour edge towards a French neo-classicism, combined with infiltrations of darker Northern colours. Of his other orchestral works, the early symphonic poem Kullervo op.15 (1913) was inspired by a story from the Finnish national epic, the Kalevala, and shows the influence of Tchaikovsky. Much more interesting is the suite from the pantomime-ballet Okon Fuoko op.58 (1927), based on a work by the Danish symbolist Poul Knudsen and taken from a Japanese tale, melodically attractive, atmospheric, and restrained in its use of exotic and percussive colours.


Madetoja's opera Pohjalaisia (The Ostrobothnians, completed 1923) occupies an important place in Finnish musical history, as the earliest Finnish opera in the regular Finnish repertoire. Based on a famous 1914 play by Artturi Järviluoma, it has a nationalist content (attacking Czarist control over Finland) while having a rural setting of Madetoja's own home area. It draws on folk-melodies, and imitations of folk-styles, in a direct language.


Madetoja taught at the Helsinki Conservatory from 1916, and then at Helsinki University from 1926; he was also active as a music critic, and conducted the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra from 1912 to 1914. His wife, the poetess L.Onerva, wrote many of the words for his songs.
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works include:
- 3 symphonies
- Comedy Overture, Dance Vision, Kullervo, Symphonic Suite and other works for orch.
- Lyric Suite for cello and piano; violin sonata; piano trio
- 8 cantatas; Stabat Mater; De Profundis for soloists and male choir; many choral works and songs
- ballet Okon Fuoko
- operas Juha and Pohjalaisia
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recommended works:
ballet suite Okon Fuoko op.58 (1927)
opera Pohjalaisia (The Ostrobothnians, completed 1923)
Symphony No.1 op.29 (1914-1915)
Symphony No.2 op.35 (1926)
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SALLINEN Aulis
born 9th April 1935 at Salmi
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Aulis Sallinen has emerged as a major Finnish composer of orchestral works and operas. He has sometimes been called a `neo-Romantic', but this is misleading as his idiom is less a conscious return to tonal principles than an individual voice that has developed from a mainstream tradition, ultimately from Sibelius and Nielsen.


In his earliest music he was attracted to atonal and 12-tone methods, but gradually he worked towards an expansion of his harmonic interests, represented by Quattro per Quattro (also known as Quatho per Quatho, 1964-1965) for oboe, violin, cello and harpsichord, whose title simply refers to four movements for four instruments. As his idiom matured he evolved a style that combined some of the mainstream European orchestral developments, notably cluster-tones and effects, with a diatonic basis to the harmonic language. Often there is in his music an undercurrent of expectation (sometimes intentionally not fulfilled), created by an underlying sense of pulse, again perhaps traceable back to Sibelius. A strong feel for the Northern landscape informs his music (sometimes almost pictorially), as well as a primary opposition: sombre, dark colours and rhythmic figures set against high, bright, clear vistas often created by tuned percussion or high woodwind and by ostinati elements. Often the darker elements generate the more positive. From time to time this cast takes on an almost fantastical hue, as if the material were being seen through a prism, most overt in the String Quartet No.3.


His four symphonies provide an effective introduction to his music. The Symphony No.1 (1970-1971) is perhaps his finest, a concentrated, fifteen-minute single movement of organic growth. All the material grows out of the opening cells, starting with a haunting, sparse, held chord, F♯ prominent, joined by the equivalent of a string quartet and woodwind and percussion. The effect of this opening is of hushed expectation, and when joined by darker colours, not as an opposition but a collusion, of new life pushing up from a dark earthiness. This reaches a plateau, fertile woodwind figures spring out, joined by dancing ideas against the held F♯, and then a climax leading to bell-like sounds from the percussion (a favourite device) and the suggestion of rain-drops. A more vigorous rhythmic figure emerges, and eventually the organic growth is complete, leaving the held F♯ on the horn, and a strong feeling of fulfilment. The one-movement Symphony No.2 (1972) is for orchestra with a virtuoso percussion part that emerges from the orchestra at the end of the first and in the last of the three sections. Subtitled a `symphonic dialogue', the slow middle section is especially effective, dominated by a bassoon against a slow, sparse backdrop, and the work is cyclical in that it returns to the opening material at the end. The Symphony No.3 (1974-1975) occupies a large canvass, in three movements. The first movement was inspired by the seascape around the Baltic island where it was written, with a sense of the wind, the sea in the surging strings, and the cries of gulls in the woodwind. The central movement is a chaconne, built from material in the coda of the first movement, and has suggestions of the dance and of fantasy. The final movement returns to the atmosphere of the first, but here the sea builds up into an engulfing orchestral wave pouring over the landscape. The Symphony No.4 (1979) has a more concrete message than its predecessors, reflecting an element of political statement in some of Sallinen's works, such as Mauermusik (Wall Music) for orchestra, commemorating a German victim of the Berlin Wall. The symphony was written just after his Dies Irae (1978) for soprano, baritone, male chorus and orchestra, which commented on nuclear destruction, and a sense of that fear and danger underlies the symphony, whose second of three movements is subtitled `Dona Nobis Pacem' (`Give us peace'). The opening is arresting: an energetic march juxtaposed with a hushed desolation, and this opposition becomes the foundation of the symphony. Eventually the march turns into the fantastical, felt again in the middle movement which attempts to resolve the undercurrent of menace. Here tuned percussion, joined by woodwind ostinati, oppose more strident brass and strings, and the final movement is dominated by the sound of bells. Such an opposition of light and dark is found again in the Cello Concerto (1977), which has the unusual form of a dark, tragic 20-minute opening movement countered by a very short (five minute) second movement of brightness. Chamber Music I (1975) for chamber orchestra uses a web of short-phrased sound as its opening, from which themes emerge, the atonal hue being gradually cast off; again there is a contrast of darkness and light, and a slow ending of considerable beauty that returns to the atmosphere of the opening but with transformed material, now diatonic. The more pastoral and lighter-veined Chamber Music II (1976) is for alto flute and string orchestra, its colours dominated by the rich tones of the solo instrument.


The work which brought Sallinen international prominence was the haunting String Quartet No.3 (1969), subtitled `Some Aspects of Peltoniemi Hintrik's Funeral March' (and arranged for string orchestra, 1981). Its basis is a famous Finnish funeral folk lament, put through five variations, two intermezzi, and a coda; its power lies in the continual sense of distortion and of the fantastical, created less by manipulation of the basic tune than by the surrounding colours and instrumental effects, and by the broken use of folk-like rhythms. The effect of this attractive, immediate, and unusual quartet is not unlike going to a ruined historical site, and imagining the sounds that once occupied it when it was full of life.


In the 1970s Sallinen turned to the form of opera, with considerable international success. Ratsumies (The Horseman, 1973-1974), to a libretto by Paavo Haavikko, is symbolist, its characters allegories. Related to the opera is a song cycle Neljä laula unesta (Four Dream Songs, 1973) for soprano and piano, also to texts by Paavo Haavikko. The themes of Punainen viiva (The Red Line, 1977-1978), to a libretto by the composer based on a celebrated 1911 Finnish novel by Ilmari Kiant, are both political and social. The backdrop is the first full suffragette elections in Finland in 1907, and especially the accompanying socialist agitation (hence the red line). The foreground is the extreme poverty of parts of rural Finland at the time, and the partly irrelevant impact of the elections, votes not replacing bread. The opera is framed by the presence of a bear, loaded with its own political symbolism, but also representing raw nature, who raids the simple farming household at the opening, and kills the man of the farm at the end, with a slash across the throat (another red line). Underlying this scenario is a sense of hope, patent in the music, but also symbolized by a young birch tree at the close. This powerful, well-wrought libretto perhaps has more resonances in northern frontier countries, such as Finland, Russia or western Canada, where such conditions pertained at the turn of the century and still have resonance today; the political scenes, sometimes criticized for their lack of characterization, are psychologically accurate, since in such societies political and social argument is often reduced to de-individualizing simplicities. The musical style and framework are relatively conventional, dividing the opera into two acts and including a few set solos, and treating the story largely realistically. Sallinen has a very strong sense of musical drama and pace, for vocal lines that express the underlying emotions of the characters (as in the heroine Riika's powerful solo in Act I, scene 2), and for a clarity of orchestration that creates atmosphere and movement, and uses such effects as children's voices with restraint and emotional effect. The Red Line is the most effective opera to have yet emerged from Finland.


Sallinen taught at the Sibelius Academy, Helsinki (1965-1973).
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works include:
- 5 symphonies (No.2 with percussion solo, No.5 Washington Mosaics); 3 Sinfonia
- cello concerto; violin concerto; concerto for chamber orch.; Variations for cello and orch.; Metamorphoses for piano and chamber orch.;
- Juventas, Mauermusik, Shadows and Two Mythical Scenes for orch.; Chorali for 32 wind, harp, celesta and 2 percussion; Chamber Music I for strings, Chamber Music II for alto flute and strings
- Elegy for Sebastian Knight for cello; cello sonata; Metamorfora for cello and piano; Canto and Ritornello for solo violin; 5 string quartets (No.3 Some Aspects of Peltoniemi Hintrik's Funeral March, No.4 Quiet Songs); Quattro per Quattro (Quatho per Quatho) for flute, violin, cello and harpsichord
- Chaconne for organ
- song cycle Neljä laulua unesta (Four Dream Songs); Dies Irae for soprano, baritone, male chorus and orch.; Laulua mereltä (Songs from the Sea) for chorus and other vocal and choral works
- operas The Horseman (Ratsumeis), The King Goes Forth to France, The Red Line (Punainen viiva) and Savonlinna
───────────────────────────────────────
recommended works:
opera The Red Line (Punainen viiva, 1977-1978)
String Quartet No.3 (1969)
Symphony No.1 (1971)
Symphony No.2 (1972) for percussion and orchestra
Symphony No.3 (1975)
Symphony No.4 (1979)
───────────────────────────────────────


SIBELIUS Jean Johan Julius Christian
born 8th December 1865 at Tavastehus
died 20th September 1957 at Järvenpää
───────────────────────────────────────
Jean Sibelius is the most distinguished of all Scandinavian composers, and a major figure in the transition from the late-Romantic 19th century to the world of the 20th. His importance to Scandinavian music cannot be underestimated, first (following the general example of Grieg) for his use of indigenous Finnish legends, connected with the Old Norse myths, which established that Scandinavian composers had their own potent heritage to draw on; and second and more crucial, the development (together with the less influential Nielsen) of an orchestral sound that reflected the qualities of the Northern landscape and light, with the use of moto-perpetuo figures providing a structural backdrop. Part of Sibelius's initial impact in Finland was his use of nationalist themes at a time when the country was rediscovering its own heritage in the face of considerable Czarist oppression (Sibelius's family, like most middle-class Finnish families of the period, spoke Swedish rather than Finnish), and at the time his works carried political overtones analogous to those of Verdi in his.


His compositional life is also a paradox, for between 1881 and 1926 he produced a huge number of works; then, after working on an eighth symphony, he fell completely silent until his death in 1957, revered as the father-figure of Scandinavian music. Although he wrote in all genres (including an early unpublished opera) the core of his output falls into two categories, the orchestral tone-poems built around Finnish myths, and the seven symphonies, which span his mature compositional life.


Behind much of his work lies the inspiration of the great Finnish national epic, the Kalevala. This work was compiled in 1835 by Elias Lönnrot (1802-1884), who collected and brought together a huge body of Finnish and Karelian folk-poetry, shaping it into an epic, leaving the actual poetry virtually untouched. Starting with the creation and ending with the coming of Christianity into Finland, its central theme is the struggle between two groups for the talisman `Sampo', which brings prosperity to its owner; its central character is an old man who defeats his enemies by wisdom and magic. With such a construction it is highly episodic, bringing together a multitude of stories, a gold-mine for a composer of tone-poems. It is for this reason that so many apparently unconnected stories in Sibelius's tone-poems can be traced to the same source.


His earliest treatment of the Finnish epic was in the huge Kullervo Symphony op.7 (1891-1892), not included in his numbered symphonies, which uses baritone, soprano and male chorus in the third of its five movements, and baritone and chorus in the last; it is a transitional work in Sibelius's output, showing the influence of Tchaikovsky and Bruckner, but also the development of his own mature voice. At the same time he was writing the first of his more familiar orchestral tone-poems, En Saga op.9 (A Saga, 1892), whose title is loosely inspired by the Icelandic Edda. Like many of Sibelius's tone-poems, there is no programme as such; Sibelius preferred to evoke the atmosphere of the story and to paint the landscape setting rather than retell events. Although the climactic outburst before the typically quiet ending looks backwards rather than forwards, En Saga has many of the hallmarks of Sibelius's mature idiom: shimmering string effects countered by rugged themes stalking through the foreground; the sudden generation of powerful impetus swelling into a climax; the brass striding out over a strong underlying rhythmic pulse; and one theme eliding into or over a very different one, an effect that sometimes verges on the polytonal. Much of the melodic cast has suggestions of folk-music, but as is usual with Sibelius, these are of his own invention. Another feature of En Saga found throughout Sibelius's work are pedal-points around which the melodic and harmonic material move, as well as themes that grow and develop out of their initial material.


It was followed by one of Sibelius' most popular works, the invigorating Karelia Suite op.11 (1893), whose title refers to the area bordering on Russia and which was a centre of nationalist sentiment. In three movements, it opens with unforgettable fanfares over shimmering strings, swelling through rising strings to the famous march, trumpets buoyed up by the quiet energy of the accompaniment, the percussion far more prominent than was usual for the time, acting as a major component of the texture; this movement is sometimes heard on its own. The central movement (for chamber forces of wind and strings) is a ballade with melancholic overtones but a throbbing pulse, and the last movement another march with percussion again prominent. The influence of the Kalevala then re-emerged in the Lemminkäinen Suite op.22 (also known as Four Legends, 1893-1895, revised 1896 and 1900), whose four tone-poems, usually heard separately, are based on Kalevala stories. The best known of these are the third, The Swan of Tuonela and the fourth, Lemminkäinen's Return. The Swan of Tuonela describes the singing of the swan that glides on the black flood waters of Tuonela, the mythological land of the dead. The swan is represented by a cor anglais, joined by a cello theme against divided strings, and the entire picture is of a ghostly melancholy, the graceful movement of the swan accompanied by pictorial water-effects. It was originally intended as the prelude to an opera project, The Building of the Boat. Lemminkäinen's Return describes the return of the hero, restored to life by his mother and persuaded to forsake his lover, and is more dramatic, with a driving energy and a fragmentation of idea over the general pulse, gradually building up with thematic snatches; it will be of interest to those following Sibelius's development, as it foreshadows some of techniques of the later symphonies.


However, it was the nationalist symphonic poem Finlandia op.26 No.7 (1899, revised 1900) that gained Sibelius an international audience. The Czarist authorities had clamped down on freedom of speech, and in response a number of meetings were held culminating in an evening at the Swedish Theatre, to which Sibelius contributed music for a series of tableau depicting Finnish history, of which Finlandia was the last (three others were published as Scènes historiques op.25). Its dramatic brass opening, countered by a hymn-like theme, the turbulent allegro with an insistent, demanding rhythmic figure from the trumpets, the famous central tune that has become as endemic to Finland as Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance No.1 has to the British, all contribute to one of the most stirring pieces of all music, that manages to avoid both bombast and sentimentality. In 1903 Sibelius wrote incidental music to Kuolema (Death), a play by his brother-in-law Arvid Järnefelt, and drew from it the short Valse Triste op.44. With subdued melancholy it evokes an ill mother dancing with the shades of the night, the events enlivened at its centre, prompted by the flute; it is a regular encore piece, and has its best impact when given by those rare orchestras who can achieve totally united ppp string playing. The symphonic fantasy Pohjola's Daughter op.49 (1906, probably earlier) returns to the Kalevala; a traveller sees Pohjola's daughter, of the land of the North, sitting on her rainbow spinning. He woos her, and has to perform three magic tasks; he succeeds in two, but not the third, which leaves him wounded in the leg from his own axe. She continues her spinning and he continues his journey to a peaceful home in Kalevala. It is one of the most colourful and graphic of Sibelius's tone-poems, making full use of the possibilities of the very large orchestra. Its extended range of contrast and idea, as well as some of its material, bring it closer to the symphonies than the shorter tone-poems. The Bard op.64 (1913, revised 1914), represents Sibelius's increasing refinement of texture and economy of means, in a restrained, almost introvert short work, sounding harp arpeggios against the orchestra. Sibelius's final symphonic poem, and his last completed work, Tapiola op.112 (1925), is a description of the northern woodlands ruled by Tapio, King of the Forest. Its five sections give it the proportions of a symphony, and there is a suggestion of elemental savagery (especially in the storm section) not found in his early tone-poems, as well as a descriptive feeling of true wilderness, a forest essentially unpeopled.


These works represent the best of his large output of tone-poems and suites, though many of the others, such as Night-ride and Sunrise op.55 (1907), the march of Scènes historiques op.25, No.2 (1899), or the only symphonic poem not related to the North, The Oceanides op.73 (1914), are worth exploring. In them Sibelius, along with his contemporary Strauss, was bringing a Romantic tradition to a close. Both had their roots in the same Germanic tradition, and both developed tonal harmony. Strauss continued to explore the Romantic angst, describing internal psychological states of heroes or his own family in an increasingly chromatically complex and dense idiom. Sibelius, however, took a very different route, thinning out the dense late-Romantic textures, seeking harmonic progressions that pared off the superfluous, and describing moods and states that are evoked externally; in this he has parallels with some of the northern landscape painters of the period. For Strauss it was the end of one particular road, but Sibelius also looks forward, specifically to the tone-poems of such composers as Bax and Arnold, but more generally to a symphonic cast adopted across Scandinavia. These concerns also tend towards the abstract, and it was entirely logical that Sibelius's genius should be turned to the form of the symphony.


In the symphonies Sibelius evolved a completely new and in its own way revolutionary path of symphonic development, with the first two symphonies acting as a prelude, the third as the catalyst, and the remaining four the evolution of this development. For, especially in the last four symphonies, progression is predicated by pulse and flow, by the different rates of flow within the overall current of a movement, sometimes with a step-like progression. The thematic material is often chosen to aid that flow, with themes that develop from short figures and are often capable of endless transformations, and with moto-perpetuo figures; themes also transform by the addition of material. Consequently, there are few themes, especially in the later symphonies, that carry their own recognizable emotional weight; that is gained during the flow and by their orchestration. The harmonic progressions are similarly intertwined with this flow: although Sibelius uses essentially traditional frameworks, symphonies ending in their home key (with the addition of a modal cast in the sixth symphony), the method by which they progress is not traditional. Sibelius cuts away much that is superfluous, so that one key may abut another without the traditional bridge; again, this contributes to the sense of pulse, and movement by steps. Similarly, he often uses a favourite device of a pedal point as an anchor for that flow, around which movement on a very large scale can hinge and allow the logic of the shorter-scale to evolve without disintegration. Naturally, the cast of this system of evolution through flow has correspondences with such traditional forms as the rondo and sonata, for that is the source of the evolution. Such forms are clear in the first two symphonies, and to a lesser extent in the third. All this has led to confusion and contradiction among those who have tried to analyze the later symphonies in terms of 19th-century theory in which key relationships and their placement are primary (the opening movement of the sixth has been variously described as having a "normal sonata form" and as having lost all connection with sonata form!). They really need different methods that would recognize the primacy of pulse, and within that the relationships of key. In this, Sibelius was anticipating methods that have increasingly become familiar through the century, both in terms of thematic transformation from germ cells, but more important, progression through the underlying pulse and changes in the surface movement, found in works as disparate as those of Martinů and the Minimalists. There is another aspect that removes the later symphonies from the Romantic era; as Neville Cardus originally observed, it is very difficult to imagine these symphonies as being peopled by anyone (which is not true of most late-Romantic symphonists, or of Mahler or Shostakovich); it is possible to imagine them as landscapes, but ones devoid of people. There is a sense of distancing, of abstracting, yet at the same time they are absorbing and involving. Herein, perhaps, and probably unconsciously on Sibelius's part, lies the real purpose of that pulse and flow in the last twenty years of Sibelius's compositional life: they match our internal physical pulses, and particularly our different types and rates of breathing, and it is this that produces such pent-up excitement or such contemplation or simple pleasure, and which can be so triumphantly overwhelming when Sibelius builds up to a great climax. This, again, is a specifically 20th-century idea, formulated and utilized in music in the second half of the century; with Sibelius it is cloaked in the remnants of the 19th-century orchestra and symphonic layout, and therefore often overlooked. It is conceivable that there is a psychological basis for this: Sibelius was diagnosed as having a benign throat tumour in 1908, and some modern schools of psychology would not be surprised to discover that his subsequent work had analogies to breath and breathing.


The direct utterance of the first two symphonies has made them the best known to general audiences. The memorable first movement of Symphony No.1 op.39 (1898-1899) immediately displays a symphonist of stature, with the sense of growth and propulsion within the sonata form; the second movement has the suggestion of a seascape, with distant echoes of Wagner and Dvořák, a sombre opening leading to a haunting nostalgia. The lithe third movement has quite rightly been compared with Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony, not so much from its construction but from its general mood, and in particular the handing of idea around the orchestra. The last movement again returns to echoes of Dvořák, in the initial attempts to generate momentum and in the later dance-like passages, but at its heart is a big, noble tune; this is the weakest movement of the symphony, for while its episodes are interesting, they fail to gel. The Symphony No.2 op.43 (1901-1902) has an overall mood of expansive triumph, the opening movement one of fermenting energy, expectation alternating with emotional pause at its start, and the subsequent build-up employing a technique where the expected pedal-point is only occasionally sounded, creating considerable nervous tension. The second movement is perhaps the symphonic movement closest to the tone-poems, with its unusual opening pizzicato on the lower strings, its dramatic and lyrical elements, and a big swell reminiscent of Finlandia. It is the lovely pastoral trio of the third movement, surrounded by fast pace and a brass climax, that provides the most lyrical slow passage of the symphony, while the gorgeously expansive finale strives for the long synthesis, for the build-up of material over a long period often using step movements, and largely succeeds. The Symphony No.3 op.52 (1904-1907) is in three movements, and in it Sibelius moves musically from the 19th to the 20th century. Sibelius suggested the opening movement represented fog banks off the English coast; if so, these fogs were shot through with sunlight, though the uplifting flow of the movement has the feel of the sea. The middle movement has the gentle air of melancholy being released, as if the Swan of Tuonela had been brought out to a calm lake in the dawn sunlight, while the build-up to the climax of the finale has tremendous power. The four-movement Symphony No.4 op. 63 (1911) is the darkest of the symphonies, constructed on the interval of the tritone, once considered the interval of the devil and here used both to disrupt through dissonance and to build the harmonic progression. Each movement starts with the end note of its predecessors, and as in the later symphonies of Nielsen there is little distinction between major and minor. The opening movement has both sadness and weariness, no blaze in the coda but bleak and sparse textures. The second movement makes an attempt at the more jovial, following images of grey, dancing waves; it fails, and the reprise of its A-B-A form is very short, truncated by the timpani. The desolate slow movement has dark, wandering fragments of different themes that eventually coalesce into a brighter image, and dissolve again into fragments, one of which eventually emerges as the major idea. The final movement, of enormous latent energy, has new features, the colours of the glockenspiel, woodwind snarls and screams, and the kind of melodic shapes also heard in Luonnotar (discussed below); the sense of pulse and surge reverberates through this ending.


The Symphony No.5 op.58 (1915, revised 1916 and 1917) was originally in four movements, but Sibelius revised it into three. Its core is the final movement, which the rest of the symphony sets up, though this is not apparent during its progress. The first movement has been endlessly discussed, with the suggestion of the equivalent of a scherzo being placed in the middle; to all intents and purposes, Sibelius had by now evolved his own principles of organic growth, discarding sonata form and contrasts of `subjects'. Discussion in terms of 19th-century models becomes unfruitful, and the overall pulse and unity of this movement is totally convincing. Its opening, with calling horns and woodwind, suggests the calling to a quest, and the movement, heroic in cast, has one long overall flow within which there are passages of organic fertile growth, surges to climax, and then to a lighter, dancing vein. Granville Bantock, close friend of Sibelius, saw this whole symphony as a description of Sibelius's home landscape, and the concept rings true. The second movement, essentially a theme and variations by rhythm, has grace and charm, though also intimations of the finale, and is a kind of interlude between the pace and tensions of the outer movements. The short and magnificent finale, its mood of rock-solid confidence and joy a complete answer to the desolations of the fourth symphony, to all intents and purposes simply allows the orchestra to breath in different ways: the long overall breath that is the momentum of the entire movement, the short breaths of the opening string moto-perpetuo, the glorious rocking breaths of the idea that follows; the different rates of breathing interact and eventually join together. At the same time it transcribes a huge swing around the key of the symphony, E flat, from C major to G♭ major, and with the final tremendous hammer strokes arrives at the home key. For readers who are new to Sibelius, or for those who only know the tone-poems and perhaps the first two symphonies, this symphony is an interesting place to start. The Symphony No.6 op.104 (1923) is another departure, being to all intents and purposes Sibelius's pastoral symphony. The textures are leaner, more astringent, the mood more contemplative, the characteristic pulse much less obvious in the opening movement, that evolves into a kind of joyous ride through a sparkling countryside. The second movement, with its overlapping rising lines, has almost neo-classical textures, while the scherzo has a jerky march, as if Sibelius's normal flow had been taken apart and recast. The beautiful last movement, the Sibelian pulse more plastic and less assertive, returns to the gentle and the pastoral, with a quiet close.


The Symphony No.7 op.105 (1924) was originally entitled Fantastica Sinfonica, an ambience it shares with three other last symphonies, those of Nielsen (Sinfonia semplice), Martinů (Fantaises symphoniques), and Shostakovich, whose fifteenth symphony could easily have been given such a title. The reasons are the same: in each case, the composer had arrived at such an instinctive and plastic command of his particular symphonic structure that he had departed far from the traditional norms. The symphony is in one movement, and opens with a marvellous fluidity that resolves into an atmosphere of glowing nostalgia and then a hymn-like string theme tinged with sadness, that becomes shot with golden sunset colours as it builds with a typical Sibelian walking bass in a passage that is among the noblest music written. Trombones join the texture in Nordic fanfare, and the material on which the symphony is built has now all been presented. The luminous mood then evolves through more uneasy strings, a more turbulent dance that itself evolves into long swirling string figures, and the return of the trombones. This moment is equivalent to a recapitulation, but new ideas are introduced, both darker shades from the strings and a sense of the waltz, moments of mawkish woodwind lurking through them. The trombones return to herald the final section of the symphony, building to an extraordinary climax in which all Sibelius's favourite moods are layered over each other, the nobility, the tense expectations of strings, the vistas of the dark northern landscapes, evolving to a great swelling chord emerging into the light of A major. The strings bring this into a sadder, intense mood, the fanfares return, now nostalgic, woodwind sing a plaintive song over tremolo strings, and suddenly the orchestra emerges in a great swell to C major. Yet to cast the symphony into such divisions is itself misleading; the whole work is one overall phrase, the various events rising and falling within it and evolving out of each other, less the swells of the ocean than the unending reshapings of clouds, some scurrying, some building into thunderheads, some serene, but all part of the same, still unpeopled, vista, ending in the great glory of the sun. After writing a work so self-contained and so complete it is hardly surprising that Sibelius never completed another symphony.


Sibelius's sole concerto is the Violin Concerto op.47 (1903, revised 1905), an unforgettable work of passionate intensity, requiring richness of tone from the soloist. It is, though, oddly balanced, the massive first movement (completely reordering the normal events of a sonata-form movement) outweighing the other two. It is a transitional work, the solo writing emerging from the 19th-century tradition, and with overall ideas looking towards the later symphonies. Although the solo writing is virtuoso, the orchestra have great weight and importance and many of Sibelius's characteristic hallmarks. Underneath the intensity there is a mellowness to the whole work, especially in the string colours, emphasized by the low writing for the soloist in the gloriously rich slow movement. Sibelius's only important chamber work is the String Quartet `Voces Intimae' op.56 (1908-1909). It is a beautiful, often meditative work in five movements, using the generation of themes from initial cells that he was developing in the symphonies, and the central andante, the heart of the work, is moving. However, it has the ambience of a symphonist turning to the form rather than that of a born composer of string quartets; Sibelius's general avoidance of counterpoint throws the emphasis on chordal progression and long evolving short-note phrases, which minimize the contrasts between the instruments, making the quartet rather monochromatic.


Of his vocal music, Luonnotar (1913) is the finest, a marvellous nine-minute tone-poem for soprano and orchestra setting the Finnish myth of the creation that opens the Kalevala, with the world emerging from the breaking of a teal's egg. With the pent-up excitement of the string opening, the orchestral evocation of the landscape of the creation is Sibelius at his descriptive best, and over this soars imaginative soprano lines of an exceptionally wide range, much of it lying very high. The melodic cast is highly individual, with something of the shape and spontaneity of an improvisatory folk song. Sibelius wrote nearly a hundred songs, all with piano and mostly to Swedish texts, and their variable quality has masked the very real impact of the best; generally they are more effective when sung by larger, operatic voices. The best are to be found in op.35, op.36, op.37, and op.38. Six Songs op.36 (1899) includes the famous Svarta rosor (Black Roses), with its flowing accompaniment to a poem by Ernst Josephson about the black roses of sorrow, and the equally well-known and limpidly beautiful Säv, säv, susa (Sigh, rushes, sigh) to a poem by Gustaf Fröding telling of the death of Ingalill, drowned in a lake. The last of the Five Songs op.37 (1900), Flickan kom ifrån sin älsklings möte (usually known as The Tryst), is a passionate short ballad in the form of a J.L. Runberg poem telling of a young woman returning home from her unfaithful lover and hiding the fact from her mother. Höstkväll (Autumn evening), the first of the Five Songs op.38 (1903-1904), is a haunting description of a coastline in the autumn rain watched by a traveller, setting a poem by Viktor Rydberg, with a very restrained piano part, confined at its climax almost entirely to a repeated note before breaking out with a Sibelian intensity. Two Songs op.35 (1907-1908), the last of this group to be written in spite of the opus number, comprises two inventive and almost operatically dramatic songs, the piano writing acting as descriptive commentator. Jubal is a poem by Ernst Josephson about Jubal killing a swan at dusk and agreeing to mourn it in song every evening, and Teodora a setting of Bertel Gripenberg where the singer tells of his lust for the Byzantine Empress Theodora with an almost Straussian dark eroticism; with Luonnotar, this is the most original of Sibelius's vocal output. Of his late songs, the first of the Six Runeberg Songs op.90 (1917), Norden (North), is a magical evocation of the frozen north, the flying swans of the poem again firing Sibelius's imagination, the piano providing the monochromatic colours of tinkling ice, the whole setting seeming to occupy one long breath.


Sibelius has suffered in the reaction against the late-Romantics of the 1940s and 1950s: like many of his contemporaries, those who appreciated his earlier music precisely because it belonged to the residue of the 19th century could not understand his later music, as it moved into the 20th. Many of those who might have appreciated his later music were put off by the Romantic hue (and the excessive advocacy by some critics) of that earlier music, and were often unfamiliar with the later works. Those later works mark him as one of the cornerstones of 20th-century music, and the foundation of almost all Scandinavian composition.
───────────────────────────────────────
works include (English titles):
- 7 symphonies; Kullervo Symphony for soprano, baritone, male chorus and orch.
- violin concerto; Suite mignonne for flute and strings; Suite caractéristique for harp and strings; Six Humoresques and 2 Serenades for violin and orch.
- suite The Bard, Belshazzar's Feast, The Dryad, Finlandia, In Memoriam, Karelia Overture, Karelia Suite, suite King Christian II, Lemminkäinen Suite (including The Swan of Tuonela), Nightride and Sunset, The Oceanides, Pan and Echo, suite Pellèas et Mélisande, Pohjola's Daughter, Rakastava Suite, En Saga, Scene with Cranes, 2 Scènes historiques, Spring Song, suite Swanwhite, Tapiola, The Tempest (prelude and 2 suites), Valse chevaleresque, Valse Triste, The Wood Nymph for orch.
- Andante festivo, Canzonetta, Portraits, Romance and Suite champêtre for strings
- violin sonata and many other works for violin and piano; Suite for string trio; string quartet Voces intimae; piano quartet; piano quintet and other chamber music including a number of early works
- many piano works
- many song cycles, including 2 sets of Runeberg Songs; cantatas The Liberated Queen, Hymn of the Earth, Our Native Land; The Origin of Fire for baritone, male chorus and orch.; many other vocal and choral works
- opera The Maiden in the Tower; pantomime Scaramouche; incidental music
───────────────────────────────────────
recommended works:
symphonic poem Finlandia op.26 (1899)
Karelia Suite op.11 (1893)
Lemminkäinen's Return op.22 No.4 (1895)
symphonic fantasy Pohjola's Daughter op.49 (1906)
tone-poem Luonnotar (1913) for soprano and orchestra
symphonic poem En Saga op.9 (1892)
The Swan of Tuonela op.22 No.3 (1895) for orchestra
Symphony No.1 (1899)
Symphony No.2 (1901-1902)
Symphony No.3 (1904-1907)
Symphony No.4 (1911)
Symphony No.5 (1915)
Symphony No.6 (1923)
Symphony No.7 (1924)
symphonic poem Tapiola op.112 (1926)
Two Songs op.35 (1907-1908)
Valse Triste op.44 (1903) for orchestra
Violin Concerto op.47 (1903, revised 1905)
───────────────────────────────────────
bibliography:
R.Layton Sibelius, London, 1965, 1978
───────────────────────────────────────

 


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