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Classical 101

The Grandest Symphony of Finnish Composer Jean Sibelius

Sculpture Of composer Jean Sibelius
Christian Cordova
Sculpture Of composer Jean Sibelius at the Sibelius Monument in Helsinki, Finland.

This is the 150th anniversary year of the birth of Finland's greatest composer, so I bet we'll be hearing a lot of Jean Sibelius's music in the coming months leading up to his actual birth date of December 8, 1865. 

Sibelius wrote seven symphonies in all in a period of about 25 years.  Symphony No. 2 in D is from 1902 and is the grandest and the longest at about 45 minutes in many performances - unless you're Leonard Bernstein conducting the Vienna Philharmonic in the video below.  Then it might takes a little longer.


The Second Symphony still shows some influence Russian Romanticism as exemplified by Peter Tchaikovsky, but there is also that unique sound-world of Sibelius that so powerfully evokes the isolated far northern landscape of Finland and a world of nature with vast forests, wind-swept fields, and flocks of wild geese and cranes flying overhead.

There is also a kind of austere logic in the development of Sibelius's symphonies that would become even more pronounced in the Third Symphony and on to the single-movement Seventh, which lasts only about 22 minutes.  

There is an organic development in which musical motifs are interconnected in a way that can evoke for listeners a sense of forms in nature: patterns in a snowflake, rivulets of water coming together to form a stream which then turns into a river, or the beautiful form of a leaf with intricate veins when held up to sunlight.

Well anyway, that's what listening to Sibelius does for me.  

Join me this evening on Symphony @ 7 for a new recording with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and its recently appointed music director Andris Nelsons.  Nelsons hails from Latvia, not far from Finland and seems to have a natural affinity for this music in his first release with an orchestra that also has a fine history of playing Sibelius's music.