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Portrait of Jean Sibelius from 1913

Jean Sibelius (About this sound pronunciation ) (8 December 1865 – 20 September 1957) was a Finnish composer of the later Romantic period whose music played an important role in the formation of the Finnish national identity.

The core of Sibelius's oeuvre is his set of seven symphonies. Like Beethoven, Sibelius used each one to develop further his own personal compositional style. Unlike Beethoven who used the symphonies to make public statements, and who reserved his more intimate feelings for his smaller works, Sibelius released his personal feelings in the symphonies.[citation needed] These works continue to be performed frequently in the concert hall and are often recorded.

In addition to the symphonies, Sibelius's best-known compositions include Finlandia, Valse Triste, the violin concerto, the Karelia Suite and The Swan of Tuonela (one of the four movements of the Lemminkäinen Suite). Other works include pieces inspired by the Kalevala, over 100 songs for voice and piano, incidental music for 13 plays, the opera Jungfrun i tornet (The Maiden in the Tower), chamber music, piano music, 21 separate publications of choral music, and Masonic ritual music. Sibelius composed prolifically until the mid-1920s. However, soon after completing his Seventh Symphony (1924), the incidental music to The Tempest (1926), and the tone poem Tapiola (1926), he produced no large scale works for the remaining thirty years of his life. Although he is reputed to have stopped composing, he did attempt to continue writing, including abortive attempts to compose an eighth symphony. He wrote some Masonic music and re-edited some earlier works during this last period of his life, and retained an active interest in new developments in music, although he did not always view modern music favorably.

The Finnish 100 mark bill featured his image.[1]

Contents

Life and work

Johan Julius Christian Sibelius was born into a Swedish-speaking family in Hämeenlinna in the Russian Grand Duchy of Finland, the son of Christian Gustaf Sibelius and Maria Charlotta Sibelius. Although known as "Janne" to his family, during his student years he began using the French form of his name, "Jean", inspired by the business card of his seafaring uncle. He is universally known as Jean Sibelius.

Against the larger context of the rise of the Fennoman movement and its expressions of Romantic Nationalism, his family decided to send him to a Finnish language school, and he attended the Hämeenlinna Normal-Lycée from 1876 to 1885. Romantic Nationalism was to become a crucial element in Sibelius's artistic output and his politics.

Sibelius in 1889.

After Sibelius graduated from high school in 1885, he began to study law at the Imperial Alexander University of Finland (now the University of Helsinki). However, he was more interested in music than in law, and he soon quit his studies. From 1885 to 1889, Sibelius studied music in the Helsinki music school (now the Sibelius Academy). One of his teachers there was Martin Wegelius. Sibelius continued studying in Berlin (from 1889 to 1890) and in Vienna (from 1890 to 1891).

Jean Sibelius married Aino Järnefelt (1871–1969) at Maxmo on 10 June 1892. Their home, called Ainola, was completed at Lake Tuusula, Järvenpää in 1903, and the two lived out the remainder of their lives there. They were married for 64 years and had six daughters: Eva, Ruth, Kirsti (who died at a very young age), Katarina, Margareta, and Heidi.

In 1911, Sibelius underwent a serious operation for suspected throat cancer. The impact of this brush with death can be seen in several of the works that he composed at the time, including Luonnotar and the Fourth Symphony.

Sibelius loved nature, and the Finnish landscape often served as material for his music. He once said of his Sixth Symphony, "[It] always reminds me of the scent of the first snow." The forests surrounding Ainola are often said to have inspired his composition of Tapiola. On the subject of Sibelius's ties to nature, one biographer of the composer, Erik Tawaststjerna, wrote the following:

Even by Nordic standards, Sibelius responded with exceptional intensity to the moods of nature and the changes in the seasons: he scanned the skies with his binoculars for the geese flying over the lake ice, listened to the screech of the cranes, and heard the cries of the curlew echo over the marshy grounds just below Ainola. He savoured the spring blossoms every bit as much as he did autumnal scents and colours.[2]
Sibelius in 1939
The grave in the garden of Ainola

The year 1926 saw a sharp and lasting decline in Sibelius's output: after his Seventh Symphony, he only produced a few major works in the rest of his life. Arguably the two most significant were incidental music for Shakespeare's The Tempest and the tone poem Tapiola. For nearly the last thirty years of his life, Sibelius even avoided talking about his music.

There is substantial evidence that Sibelius worked on an eighth numbered symphony. He promised the premiere of this symphony to Serge Koussevitzky in 1931 and 1932, and a London performance in 1933 under Basil Cameron was even advertised to the public. However, the only concrete evidence for the symphony's existence on paper is a 1933 bill for a fair copy of the first movement.[3] Sibelius had always been quite self-critical; he remarked to his close friends, "If I cannot write a better symphony than my Seventh, then it shall be my last." Since no manuscript survives, sources consider it likely that Sibelius destroyed all traces of the score, probably in 1945, during which year he certainly consigned (in his wife's presence) a great many papers to the flames.[4]

On January 1, 1939, Sibelius participated in an international radio broadcast which included the composer conducting his Andante Festivo. The performance was preserved on transcription discs and later issued on CD. This is probably the only surviving example of Sibelius interpreting his own music.[5]

His 90th birthday, in 1955, was widely celebrated and both the Philadelphia Orchestra under Eugene Ormandy and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under Sir Thomas Beecham gave special performances of his music in Finland. The orchestras and their conductors also met the composer at his home; a series of memorable photographs were taken to commemorate the occasions. Both Columbia Records and EMI released some of the pictures with albums of Sibelius's music. Beecham was honored by the Finnish government for his efforts to promote Sibelius both in the United Kingdom and in the United States.

Tawaststjerna also relayed an endearing anecdote regarding Sibelius's death:

[He] was returning from his customary morning walk. Exhilarated, he told his wife Aino that he had seen a flock of cranes approaching. "There they come, the birds of my youth," he exclaimed. Suddenly, one of the birds broke away from the formation and circled once above Ainola. It then rejoined the flock to continue its journey. Two days afterwards Sibelius died of a brain hemorrhage, at age 91 (on 20 September 1957), in Ainola, where he is buried in the garden. Another well-known Finnish composer, Heino Kaski, died that same day. Aino lived there for the next twelve years until she died on 8 June 1969; she is buried with her husband.[2]

In 1972, Sibelius's surviving daughters sold Ainola to the State of Finland. The Ministry of Education and the Sibelius Society opened it as a museum in 1974.

Musical style

Like many of his contemporaries, Sibelius was initially enamored with the music of Wagner. A performance of Parsifal at the Bayreuth Festival had a strong effect on him, inspiring him to write to his wife shortly thereafter, "Nothing in the world has made such an impression on me, it moves the very strings of my heart." He studied the scores of Wagner's operas Tannhäuser, Lohengrin, and Die Walküre intently. With this music in mind, Sibelius began work on an opera of his own, entitled Veneen luominen (The Building of the Boat).

However, his appreciation for Wagner waned and Sibelius ultimately rejected Wagner's Leitmotif compositional technique, considering it to be too deliberate and calculated. Departing from opera, he later used the musical material from the incomplete Veneen luominen in his Lemminkäinen Suite (1893). He did, however, compose a considerable number of songs for voice and piano, whose early interpreters included Aino Ackté and particularly Ida Ekman.

More lasting influences included Ferruccio Busoni, Anton Bruckner and Tchaikovsky. Hints of Tchaikovsky's music are particularly evident in works such as Sibelius's First Symphony (1899) and his Violin Concerto (1905). Similarities to Bruckner are most strongly felt in the 'unmixed' timbral palette and sombre brass chorales of Sibelius's orchestration, as well as in the latter composer's fondness for pedal points and in the underlying slow pace of his music.

Sibelius progressively stripped away formal markers of sonata form in his work and, instead of contrasting multiple themes, he focused on the idea of continuously evolving cells and fragments culminating in a grand statement. His later works are remarkable for their sense of unbroken development, progressing by means of thematic permutations and derivations. The completeness and organic feel of this synthesis has prompted some to suggest that Sibelius began his works with a finished statement and worked backwards, although analyses showing these predominantly three- and four-note cells and melodic fragments as they are developed and expanded into the larger "themes" effectively prove the opposite.[6]

Portrait of Sibelius from 1894 by Akseli Gallen-Kallela

This self-contained structure stood in stark contrast to the symphonic style of Gustav Mahler, Sibelius's primary rival in symphonic composition. While thematic variation played a major role in the works of both composers, Mahler's style made use of disjunct, abruptly changing and contrasting themes, while Sibelius sought to slowly transform thematic elements. In November 1907 Mahler undertook a conducting tour of Finland, and the two composers had occasion to go on a lengthy walk together. Sibelius later reported that during the walk:

I said that I admired [the symphony's] severity of style and the profound logic that created an inner connection between all the motifs... Mahler's opinion was just the reverse. 'No, a symphony must be like the world. It must embrace everything.'[7]

However, the two rivals did find common ground in their music. Like Mahler, Sibelius made frequent use both of folk music and of literature in the composition of his works. The Second Symphony's slow movement was sketched from the motive of Il Commendatore in Don Giovanni, while the stark Fourth Symphony combined work for a planned "Mountain" symphony with a tone poem based on Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven". Sibelius also wrote several tone poems based on Finnish poetry, beginning with the early En Saga and culminating in the late Tapiola (1926), his last major composition.

Over time, he sought to use new chord patterns, including naked tritones (for example in the Fourth Symphony), and bare melodic structures to build long movements of music, in a manner similar to Joseph Haydn's use of built-in dissonances. Sibelius would often alternate melodic sections with noble brass chords that would swell and fade away, or he would underpin his music with repeating figures which push against the melody and counter-melody.

Sibelius's melodies often feature powerful modal implications: for example much of the Sixth Symphony is in the (modern) Dorian mode. Sibelius studied Renaissance polyphony, as did his contemporary, the Danish composer Carl Nielsen, and Sibelius's music often reflects the influence of this early music. He often varied his movements in a piece by changing the note values of melodies, rather than the conventional change of tempi. He would often draw out one melody over a number of notes, while playing a different melody in shorter rhythm. For example, his Seventh Symphony comprises four movements without pause, where every important theme is in C major or C minor; the variation comes from the time and rhythm. His harmonic language was often restrained, even iconoclastic, compared to many of his contemporaries who were already experimenting with musical Modernism. As reported by Neville Cardus in the Manchester Guardian newspaper in 1958,

Sibelius justified the austerity of his old age by saying that while other composers were engaged in manufacturing cocktails he offered the public pure cold water.[8]

Reception

Because of its alleged conservatism, Sibelius's music is sometimes considered insufficiently complex, but he was immediately respected by even his more progressive peers. Later in life he was championed by critic Olin Downes, who wrote a biography, but he was attacked by composer-critic Virgil Thomson.

Sibelius has sometimes been criticized as a reactionary or even incompetent figure in 20th century classical music. In 1938 Theodor Adorno wrote a critical essay about the composer, notoriously charging that

If Sibelius is good, this invalidates the standards of musical quality that have persisted from Bach to Schoenberg: the richness of inter-connectedness, articulation, unity in diversity, the 'multi-faceted' in 'the one'.[9]

Composer and theorist René Leibowitz went so far as to describe Sibelius as "the worst composer in the world" in the title of a 1955 pamphlet.[10] Despite the innovations of the Second Viennese School, he continued to write in a strictly tonal idiom. However, critics who have sought to re-evaluate Sibelius's music have cited its self-contained internal structure, which distills everything down to a few motivic ideas and then permits the music to grow organically, as evidence of a previously under-appreciated radical bent to his work. The severe nature of Sibelius's orchestration is often noted as representing a "Finnish" character, stripping away the superfluous from music.

Perhaps one reason Sibelius has attracted both the praise and the ire of critics is that in each of his seven symphonies he approached the basic problems of form, tonality, and architecture in unique, individual ways. On the one hand, his symphonic (and tonal) creativity was novel, but others thought that music should be taking a different route. Sibelius's response to criticism was dismissive: "Pay no attention to what critics say. No statue has ever been put up to a critic."

Sibelius has fallen in and out of fashion, but remains one of the most popular 20th century symphonists, with complete cycles of his symphonies continuing to be recorded. In his own time, however, he focused far more on the more profitable chamber music for home use, and occasionally on works for the stage. Eugene Ormandy and, to a lesser extent, his predecessor Leopold Stokowski, were instrumental in bringing Sibelius's music to American audiences by programming his works often, and the former thereby developed a friendly relationship with Sibelius throughout his life.

In 1990, the composer Thea Musgrave was commissioned by the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra to write a piece in honour of the 125th anniversary of Sibelius's birth. Song of the Enchanter was premiered on 14 February 1991.[11]

Research by T. L. Jackson of the University of North Texas, in which he investigated the composer's connections to Nazi Germany, led him to conclude that the composer actively supported, and benefited from, National Socialism. Other scholars have said such conclusions are simplistic.[12]

Media

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Selected works

These are ordered chronologically; the date is the date of composition rather than publication or first performance.

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Orchestral works

  • Kullervo, Symphonic Poem for soprano, baritone, chorus and orchestra, Op. 7 (1892)
  • En Saga, Tone Poem for orchestra, Op. 9 (1892/1902)
  • Karelia Overture for orchestra, Op. 10 (1893)
  • Karelia Suite for orchestra, Op. 11 (1893)
  • Rakastava (The Lover) for male voices and strings or strings and percussion, Op. 14 (1893/1911)
  • Lemminkäinen Suite (Four Legends from the Kalevala) for orchestra, Op. 22 (1893) - these legends, which include The Swan of Tuonela, are often performed separately
  • Skogsrået (The Wood Nymph), Tone Poem for orchestra, Op. 15 (1894)
  • Vårsång for orchestra, Op. 16 (1894)
  • Kung Kristian (King Christian), Suite from the incidental music for orchestra, Op. 27 (1898)
  • Sandels, Improvisation for chorus and orchestra, Op. 28 (1898)
  • Finlandia for orchestra and optional chorus, Op. 26 (1899)
  • Snöfrid for reciter, chorus and orchestra, Op. 29 (1899)
  • Tulen synty (The Origin of Fire), Op. 32 (1902)
  • Symphony No. 1 in E minor for orchestra, Op. 39 (1899/1900)
  • Symphony No. 2 in D major for orchestra, Op. 43 (1902)
  • Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 47 (1903/1905)
  • Kuolema (Valse Triste and Scene with Cranes) for orchestra, Op. 44 (1904/1906)
  • Dance Intermezzo for orchestra, Op. 45/2 (1904/1907)
  • Pelléas et Mélisande, Incidental music/Suite for orchestra, Op. 46 (1905)
  • Pohjolan tytär (Pohjola's Daughter), Tone Poem for orchestra, Op. 49 (1906)
  • Symphony No. 3 in C major for orchestra, Op. 52 (1907)
  • Svanevit (Swan-white), Suite from the incidental music for orchestra, Op. 54 (1908)
  • Nightride and Sunrise, Tone Poem for orchestra, Op. 55 (1909)
  • Dryadi (The Dryad) for orchestra, Op. 45/1 (1910)
  • Two Pieces from Kuolema for orchestra, Op. 62 (1911)
  • Symphony No. 4 in A minor for orchestra, Op. 63 (1911)
  • Scenes Historiques, Suite No. 2, Op. 66 (1912)
  • Two Serenades for violin and orchestra, Op. 69 (1912)
  • Barden (The Bard), Tone Poem for orchestra and harp, Op. 64 (1913/1914)
  • Luonnotar, Tone Poem for soprano and orchestra, Op. 70 (1913)
  • Aallottaret (The Oceanides), Tone Poem for orchestra, Op. 73 (1914)
  • Impromptu, Op. 78 (1915)
  • Symphony No. 5 in E flat major for orchestra, Op. 82 (1915, revised 1916 and 1919)
  • Oma Maa (Our Fatherland) for chorus and orchestra, Op. 92 (1918)
  • Jordens sång (Song of the Earth) for chorus and orchestra, Op. 93 (1919)
  • Valse Lyrique, Op. 96 (1920)
  • Symphony No. 6 in D minor for orchestra, Op. 104 (1923)
  • Symphony No. 7 in C major for orchestra, Op. 105 (1924)
  • The Tempest, Incidental music for soloists, chorus and orchestra, Op. 109 (1925)
  • Väinön virsi (Väinö's song) for chorus and orchestra, Op. 110 (1926)
  • Tapiola, Tone Poem for orchestra, Op. 112 (1926)
  • Andante Festivo for string orchestra (1925/1930)

Other works

See also

Notes

  1. ^ http://www.setelit.com/raha/347
  2. ^ a b Tawaststjerna, Erik; Robert Layton (Translator) (1976–1986). Sibelius. London: Farber & Farber.  Vol. I, 1865–1905. ISBN 0-571-08832-5; Vol. II, 1904–1914. ISBN 0-571-08833-3
  3. ^ Kari Kilpeläinen. ""Sibelius Eight. What happened to it?"". Finnish Music Quarterly 4/1995. http://www.fimic.fi/fimic/fimic.nsf/mainframe?readform&B17F0B92F76C013CC2256825004FBD08. 
  4. ^ ""The war and the destruction of the eighth symphony 1939-1945"". Sibelius.fi. http://www.sibelius.fi/english/elamankaari/sib_kahdeksannen_tuhoaminen.htm. 
  5. ^ http://inkpot.com/classical/sibjarvi.html
  6. ^ Pike
  7. ^ Burnett-James, p. 41
  8. ^ Burnett-James, p. 94
  9. ^ Adorno, Theodor (1938), "Törne, B. de, Sibelius; A Close Up", Zeitschrift für Sozialforschung 7: 460–463 . Later reprinted as "Glosse über Sibelius". Cited and translated in Jackson, Timothy L. (2001), "Preface", in Jackson, Timothy L.; Murtomäki, Veijo, Sibelius Studies, Cambridge University Press, xviii, ISBN 0521624169, http://books.google.com/books?id=6p9lAkbz7fAC&pg=PR18&vq=%22if+sibelius+is+good%22&dq=%22sibelius+studies%22&sig=IvW86aN-JhSmvekkgBHjuhqy3ek 
  10. ^ Leibowitz, René (1955). Sibelius, le plus mauvais compositeur du monde. Liège, Belgium: Éditions Dynamo. OCLC 28594116. 
  11. ^ Song of the Enchanter, Thea Musgrave.
  12. ^ http://chronicle.com/article/A-Composers-Ties-to-Nazi/49256/

References

  • Burnett-James, David (1989). Sibelius. London, New York: Omnibus Press. ISBN 0711916837. 
  • Pike, Lionel (1978). Beethoven, Sibelius and 'the Profound Logic': Studies in Symphonic Analysis. London: The Athlone Press. ISBN 0 485 11178 0. 

Further reading

  • Layton, Robert. Sibelius. New York: Schirmer Books, 1993. Master Musicians Series. ISBN 0-02-871322-2.
  • Ekman, Karl. "Jean Sibelius, His Life and Personality". New York, Tudor Publishing Co., 1945.
  • Levas, Santeri. Sibelius: a personal portrait. London, Dent, 1972. ISBN 0460039784.
  • Tawaststjerna, Erik. "Sibelius". London, Faber & Faber, vol.1 (1976), vol.2(1986).
  • de Gorog, Lisa (with the collaboration of Ralph de Gorog) "From Sibelius to Sallinen: Finnish Nationalism and the Music of Finland". New York, Greenwood Press, 1989.
  • Tomi Mäkelä: "Poesie in der Luft. Jean Sibelius, Studien zu Leben und Werk". Wiesbaden, Breitkopf & Härtel, 2007. 978-3-7651-0363-6
  • Barnett, Andrew. Sibelius. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2007. ISBN 978-0-300-11159-0
  • Minnesota Orchestra's showcase concert magazine, May 6, page 44
  • Morgan, Robert P. (1991) [1990]. "Other European Currents". The Norton Introduction to Music History: Twentieth-Century Music (1st ed.). New York: W. W. Norton & Company. pp. 121–123. ISBN 0-393-95272-X. 
  • Goss, Glenda Sibelius: A Composer’s Life and the Awakening of Finland. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 2009. ISBN-10: 0-226-30477-9
  • Goss, Glenda Jean Sibelius: Guide to Research. New York: Garland Press, 1998. ISBN 0-8153-1171-0

External links


Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Whereas most other modern composers are engaged in manufacturing cocktails of every hue and description, I offer the public pure cold water.

Johan Julius Christian Sibelius (1865-12-081957-09-20) was a Finnish composer known particularly for his symphonies and tone poems. He adopted the name Jean in early adulthood.

Contents

Sourced

  • If we understood the world, we would realize that there is a logic of harmony underlying its manifold apparent dissonances.
    • Henry Thomas & Dana Lee Thomas Living Biographies of Great Composers (Garden City (NY): Blue Ribbon, [1940] 1946) p. 309.
    • Said in 1907, in conversation with Gustav Mahler.
  • Music is for me like a beautiful mosaic which God has put together. He takes all the pieces in his hand, throws them into the world, and we have to recreate the picture from the pieces.
  • If I could express the same thing with words as with music, I would, of course, use a verbal expression. Music is something autonomous and much richer. Music begins where the possibilities of language end. That is why I write music.
  • Whereas most other modern composers are engaged in manufacturing cocktails of every hue and description, I offer the public pure cold water.
  • Never pay any attention to what critics say…Remember, a statue has never been set up in honour of a critic!
    • Bengt de Törne Sibelius: A Close-Up (London: Faber and Faber, 1937), p. 27.
  • It is so difficult to mix with artists! You must choose business men to talk to, because artists only talk of money.
    • Bengt de Törne Sibelius: A Close-Up (London: Faber and Faber, 1937), p. 94.
    • Usually quoted as "Musicians talk of nothing but money and jobs. Give me businessmen every time. They really are interested in music and art."
  • The framework of a symphony must be so strong that it forces you to follow it, regardless of the environment and circumstances.
  • I often conduct an orchestra in my sleep; my orchestras are so huge that the back desks of the violas vanish into the horizon. And everything is so wonderful.

Misattributed

Criticism

  • In his work a means of escape has been found from outmoded romanticism on the one hand and from a barren objectivity on the other.
    • Neville Cardus in the Manchester Guardian, 1935; reprinted in his The Delights of Music (1966) p. 56.
  • Sibelius is unquestionably a leader in the front rank of symphonic composers. He has got out of the ruts worn by his predecessors far more completely than Brahms got away from Beethoven, or even Richard Strauss from Wagner. If someone would only burn Finlandia he would come to our young people as an entirely original inventor of a new art form and a new harmony technique.
  • Sibelius has an acutely developed sense of identification with nature and a preoccupation with myth that at one and the same time define his unique strength and his basic limitation. These preoccupations override his involvement in the human predicament, except in so far as it affects man’s relationship with nature.
    • Robert Layton Sibelius (London: J. M. Dent, [1965] 1971), ch. 16, p. 153.

External links

Wikipedia
Wikipedia has an article about:

Simple English

File:Sibélius 1889-90.gif
Sibelius around the year 1889 or 1890

Jean Sibelius (born Hämeenlinna (Tavastehus) 8 December 1865; died Järvenpää, 20 September 1957) was a Finnish composer. He is one of the most famous people from Finland and one of the greatest composers of symphonies of all times. He was born at a time when Russia had a lot of power in Finland and the Finnish people were trying hard to keep their own culture and their independence. This nationalism can be heard in a lot of his music, especially some of the choral music. After 1928 he composed very little. He lived in retirement in his home in the Finnish countryside.

Contents

His life

Early life

Jean (pronounced the French way) was born 100km north of the Finnish capital Helsinki. His grandfather had changed the family name from a Finnish name to the Latin-sounding “Sibelius”. His father died during a cholera epidemic when Jean was very young. His family spoke Swedish at home, but when he was eleven he went to a Finnish-speaking school. He learned to play the violin and wanted to be a soloist. He loved reading the Kalevala which was a long epic poem about the old Finnish legends. He also loved the Swedish-speaking poets who wrote poems about nature.

In 1885 he went to Helsinki to study law but he soon gave up law and concentrated on his violin studies and composition. He went to Berlin to continue his music studies. He became good friends with the pianist and composer Ferruccio Busoni and went with him to Leipzig. At this time he had mainly written chamber music. In Vienna he had lessons from Karl Goldmark and heard lots of orchestral music. He spent a lot of his money, much of it on drink which was to be a big problem for him for many years.

Early success

He went back to Finland in 1891. He earned money by teaching. He wrote a big work for orchestra and singers called Kullervo . The words were in Finnish, the story was from the poem Kalevala. This work made him famous.

In 1892 he married Aino Järnefelt. Her father was a general and very keen on the Finnish language. The Finnish were trying more and more at this time to be free of rule by Russia. Sibelius wrote more patriotic music during the 1890s e.g. the tone poem En Saga and the Lemminkäinen legends which include the popular The Swan of Tuonela. His patriotic tone poem Finlandia is still very popular today. His music at this time was influenced by Wagner and Tchaikovsky. He also heard Finnish folk melodies and, although he does not use them directly in his music, they became part of his musical language. In 1897 he was given a state pension which helped him financially although for many years he was still very often short of money because he had expensive tastes.

Mature years

Between 1899 and 1924 Sibelius composed the 7 symphonies which made him famous worldwide. His friend, the conductor Kajanus, conducted Sibelius’s works when he took the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra on tour around Europe. His wife was becoming worried about how much alcohol he was drinking in Helsinki, so 1903 she persuaded him to move the family to a place called Ainola in the Finnish countryside. They had a house built in Järvenpää. Apart from a few short periods in Helsinki he spent the rest of his life there. The first works he wrote there were his Symphony no 2 and the Violin Concerto . He became seriously ill in 1908 and for several years he had to stop smoking cigars and drinking alcohol. He continued to travel and visited England several times and the United States in 1914 where he was very popular. After the war he continued to write more symphonies as well as some short, light pieces. The last great work that he wrote was the tone-poem Tapiola in 1926. He tried to write another symphony (no 8) but gave up and destroyed it. He never wrote any more music. He continued to live in retirement in his house in the Finnish country for another 30 years. The house is now a Sibelius museum.

Family life

Sibelius's wife Aino came from a highly respectable family. Although her father was a general in the army, there was a very great interest in culture in the Järnefeld family which included musicians, painters and poets. Jean fell in love with Aino on his first visit to her home. Aino was to be a faithful wife to him all his life, although she suffered a lot of hardship due to his drinking problems and his debts. They had five daughters.

His works

Sibelius is best known for his symphonies and tone-poems. His symphonies are very different from one another, none can be described as being “typical” of his style. The early symphonies are Romantic in character, in the later symphonies he tries out lots of new ideas and sounds. His Violin Concerto is played by all the great violinists. Sibelius wrote lots of songs for voice and piano. These are mostly settings of Swedish poems. He also wrote many choral works, mostly in Finnish. These vocal works are not so well known outside Finland because the language is not familiar abroad, but there are some very good songs, especially Luonnotar. Besides his important works he also wrote many short works in order to earn enough money to live. These include songs as well as many short piano pieces.

Sibelius's music today is extremely popular. His music has also been an influence on recent composers.

References

  • "Sibelius" by Andrew Barnett, 2007; ISBN 978-0-3---11159-0mrj:Сибелиус Жан

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