Jean Sibelius


Born: Dec 8, 1865; Finland   Died: Sep 20, 1957; Finland   Period: 20th Century
Finland's Jean Sibelius is perhaps the most important composer associated with nationalism in music and one of the most influential in the development of the symphony and symphonic poem. Sibelius was born in southern Finland, the second of three children. His physician father left the family bankrupt, owing to his financial extravagance, a trait that, along with heavy drinking, he would pass on to Jean. Jean showed talent on the violin and at age Read more nine composed his first work for it, Rain Drops. In 1885 Sibelius entered the University of Helsinki to study law, but after only a year found himself drawn back to music. He took up composition studies with Martin Wegelius and violin with Mitrofan Wasiliev, then Hermann Csillag. During this time he also became a close friend of Busoni. Though Sibelius auditioned for the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, he would come to realize he was not suited to a career as a violinist.
In 1889 Sibelius traveled to Berlin to study counterpoint with Albert Becker, where he also was exposed to new music, particularly that of Richard Strauss. In Vienna he studied with Karl Goldmark and then Robert Fuchs, the latter said to be his most effective teacher. Now Sibelius began pondering the composition of the Kullervo Symphony, based on the Kalevala legends. Sibelius returned to Finland, taught music, and in June 1892, married Aino Järnefelt, daughter of General Alexander Järnefelt, head of one of the most influential families in Finland. The premiere of Kullervo in April 1893 created a veritable sensation, Sibelius thereafter being looked upon as the foremost Finnish composer. The Lemminkäinen suite, begun in 1895 and premiered on April 13, 1896, has come to be regarded as the most important music by Sibelius up to that time.
In 1897 the Finnish Senate voted to pay Sibelius a short-term pension, which some years later became a lifetime conferral. The honor was in lieu of his loss of an important professorship in composition at the music school, the position going to Robert Kajanus. The year 1899 saw the premiere of Sibelius' First Symphony, which was a tremendous success, to be sure, but not quite of the magnitude of that of Finlandia (1899; rev. 1900).
In the next decade Sibelius would become an international figure in the concert world. Kajanus introduced several of the composer's works abroad; Sibelius himself was invited to Heidelberg and Berlin to conduct his music. In March 1901, the Second Symphony was received as a statement of independence for Finland, although Sibelius always discouraged attaching programmatic ideas to his music. His only concerto, for violin, came in 1903. The next year Sibelius built a villa outside of Helsinki, named "Ainola" after his wife, where he would live for his remaining 53 years. After a 1908 operation to remove a throat tumor, Sibelius was implored to abstain from alcohol and tobacco, a sanction he followed until 1915. It is generally believed that the darkening of mood in his music during these years owes something to the health crisis.
Sibelius made frequent trips to England, having visited first in 1905 at the urging of Granville Bantock. In 1914 he traveled to Norfolk, CT, where he conducted his newest work The Oceanides. Sibelius spent the war years in Finland working on his Fifth Symphony. Sibelius traveled to England for the last time in 1921. Three years later he completed his Seventh Symphony, and his last work was the incidental music for The Tempest (1925). For his last 30 years Sibelius lived a mostly quiet life, working only on revisions and being generally regarded as the greatest living composer of symphonies. In 1955 his 90th birthday was widely celebrated throughout the world with many performances of his music. Sibelius died of a cerebral hemorrhage in 1957. Read less
Folke Grasbeck Plays Sibelius on the Ainola Piano
Release Date: 06/09/2015   Label: Bis  
Catalog: 2132   Number of Discs: 1
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Sibelius: Pelleas et Melisande / Segerstam, Turku Philharmonic
Release Date: 08/14/2015   Label: Naxos  
Catalog: 8573301   Number of Discs: 1
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Sibelius: Lemminkainen Suite, Wood Nymph / Vanska
Release Date: 07/08/2014   Label: Bis  
Catalog: 1745   Number of Discs: 1
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Sibelius: The Essential Orchestral Favourites With Photo Album
Release Date: 11/11/2014   Label: Ondine  
Catalog: 12652   Number of Discs: 2
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Sibelius: Symphonies... / Bernstein, New York
Release Date: 07/24/2015   Label: Sony  
Catalog: 502614   Number of Discs: 7
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Work: Valse triste


About This Work
Despite almost a century of familiarity and unsatisfactory performances by unlikely instrumental combinations, it's easy to imagine the truly magical effect that Jean Sibelius' Valse Triste (1904) must have had on audiences of the day. The Valse was Read more extracted and published separately from the composer's incidental music to his brother-in-law's play Kuolema (Death). Still, the work stands quite well on its own as an orchestral poem in miniature, and it seems today as fresh, charming, and thoroughly well-crafted as it did when it single-handedly spread its composer's fame through the tea houses of Europe and America. A brief paraphrase of the Valse can even be found at the end of the composer's Symphony No. 7 (1924), perhaps in acknowledgement of the tremendous effect this composition had on Sibelius' career. Cast in a ternary dance form, Valse Triste opens with a simple utterance, but this apparently transparent statement masterfully introduces an overwhelming mood of vast, if perhaps bittersweet, melancholy. As the music unfolds, it exhibits a remarkable ambiguity of mood, reflecting both an old woman's joy at being reunited with her dead husband and the audience's knowledge that it is in fact Death himself that the mother is dancing with. Passions rise in the middle section, and as the opening material reasserts itself at the end of the dance, it is clear that the woman has died. The work draws to a somber end with three ominous chords.

-- Blair Johnston Read less

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ArkivMusic Recommendation

Jean Sibelius

Three Preludes: Allegro ben ritmato e deciso
Andante con moto e poco rubato
Allegro ben ritmato e diciso
Sibelius: Karelia Suite, Op.11 - 1. Intermezzo (Moderato)
Sibelius: Karelia Suite, Op.11 - 2. Ballade (Tempo di menuetto)
Sibelius: Karelia Suite, Op.11 - 3. Alla marcia (Moderato)
1. Allegretto - Poco allegro - Tranquillo, ma poco a poco ravvivando il tempo al allegro
2. Tempo andante, ma rubato - Andante sostenuto
3. Vivacissimo - Lento e suave - Largamente
4. Finale (Allegro moderato)
I. Andante ma non troppo: Allegro energico
II. Andante (ma non troppo lento)
III. Scherzo (Allegro)
IV. Finale (Quasi una fantasia)
Sibelius: Symphony No.5 in E flat, Op.82 - 1. Tempo molto moderato - Largamente - Allegro moderato
Sibelius: Symphony No.5 in E flat, Op.82 - 2. Andante mosso, quasi allegretto
Sibelius: Symphony No.5 in E flat, Op.82 - 3. Allegro molto
Sibelius: Symphony No.4 in A minor, Op.63 - 1. Tempo molto moderato, quasi adagio
Sibelius: Symphony No.4 in A minor, Op.63 - 2. Allegro molto vivace
Sibelius: Symphony No.4 in A minor, Op.63 - 3. Il tempo largo
Sibelius: Symphony No.4 in A minor, Op.63 - 4. Allegro
Sibelius: Symphony No.7 in C, Op.105 - Adagio -
Sibelius: Symphony No.7 in C, Op.105 - Vivacissimo - Adagio -
Sibelius: Symphony No.7 in C, Op.105 - Allegro molto moderato - Allegro moderato -
Sibelius: Symphony No.7 in C, Op.105 - Vivace - Presto - Adagio - Largamente molto -
Sibelius: Symphony No.7 in C, Op.105 - Affettuoso
I. Allegro moderato
II. Andantino con moto, quasi allegretto
III. Moderato - Allegro (Ma non tanto)
Sibelius: Symphony No.6 In D Minor, Op.104 - 1. Allegro molto moderato
Sibelius: Symphony No.6 In D Minor, Op.104 - 2. Allegretto moderato
Sibelius: Symphony No.6 In D Minor, Op.104 - 3. Poco vivace
Sibelius: Symphony No.6 In D Minor, Op.104 - 4. Allegro molto

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