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Classical 101

Sibelius First on Symphony @ 7

Finnish composer Jean Sibelius wrote seven fine symphonies over the course of about 25 years.  This evening on Symphony @ 7, I'll have his first foray into the genre with Symphony No. 1 in E minor.

When the First Symphony appeared in 1899, Sibelius was still under the sway of the music of Peter Tchaikovsky.  He had heard Tchaikovsky's Pathetique twice in Helsinki since its Russian premiere in 1893, and Sibelius's  own first symphony was strongly influenced by that experience.  The Second Symphony to come in 1901 also shows the Russian influence, and then from the Third on, Sibelius kept moving in a more individual direction in his symphonies.

But right from the start, there is also Sibelius's own individual voice present, as exemplified by the quiet and slow opening of Symphony No. 1 with a long mournful melody played by the solo clarinet.  We are introduced to a sound world that for many, expresses the far northern landscapes of Finland, a vast world of solitary nature, uninhabited by human presence.

This effect is even more striking in some of his works to come, but this evening you can enjoy the First Symphony of Jean Sibelius, with its blend of emotional Russian Romanticism and sense of austere nature, in a fine recording with the London Symphony Orchestra and Colin Davis here on Classical 101.