Jean Sibelius (1865-1957)

Donald Macleod commemorates the 50th anniversary of Sibelius's death.

Episodes

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0120060116

Donald Macleod discusses Sibelius's relationship with his own country, Finland.

Finlandia, Op 26, No 7

Atlanta Symphony Orchestra

Yoel Levi (conductor)

Kullervo and his sister

Karita Mattila (soprano)

Jorma Hynninen (baritone)

Laulun Ystavat Male Choir

Neeme Jarvi (conductor)

Tapiola: Philharmonia Orchestra

Vladimir Ashkenazy (conductor).

0120070917

By the age of 26, Sibelius had already established his reputation with the first of his symphonic masterpieces, marking him out as a standard-bearer of Finnish culture. This programme includes one of his most popular orchestral suites and the first in a line of tone poems that would thread themselves through his career over the next 30 years.

The Kiss's Hope; Spring is Flying; The Dream; The Young Huntsman, Op 13

Anne Sofie von Otter (mezzo-soprano)

Bengt Forsberg (piano)

En Saga

Danish National Radio Symphony Orchestra

Leif Segerstam (conductor)

Rakastava

Accentus Chamber Choir

Eric Ericson (conductor)

Karelia Suite

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Sakari Oramo (conductor).

01Bearing The Banner Of Finnish Music20130819

Donald Macleod focuses on the early years of Jean Sibelius, who would go on to create a distinctive Finnish voice in music in the late 19th and early 20th century. Born just outside Helsinki in 1865, Sibelius grew up in a Swedish-speaking household, within a Finland which had not yet gained independence from Russia. His first musical love was for the violin, and he relinquished his dream of becoming a concert violinist very reluctantly.

01Janne20180212

Donald Macleod explores Sibelius's youth and musical studies in Helsinki and Berlin.

Donald Macleod delves into the life and work of the man who is almost universally recognised as Finland's greatest ever composer - Jean Sibelius. Sibelius's music went a long way towards establishing a sense of national musical identity in Finland - a tradition that has flourished there ever since. Sibelius felt a strong connection with his homeland and the nature which flourished there, and the nationalist flavour of his works was highly appealing to a Finnish audience at a time when Finland was fighting for independence from Russia. In this episode, Donald explores Sibelius's youth as a promising violinist, the early impressions which the Finnish natural world had on the budding musician, and his time studying in both Helsinki and Berlin.

Vattendroppar, JS 216
Yoshiko Arai (violin)
Seppo Kimanen (cello)

Violin Concerto in D minor, Op 47
Lisa Batiashvili (violin)
Staatskapelle Berlin
Daniel Barenboim (conductor)

Serenad
Anne Sofie von Otter (mezzo-soprano)
Bengt Forsberg (piano)

Piano Quintet in G minor, JS159 - 1st movement
Folke Gräsbeck (piano)
Laura Vikman (violin)
Jaakko Kuusisto (violin)
Anna Kreetta Gribajcevic (viola)
Joel Laakso (cello)

Producer: Sam Phillips.

0220060117

Although he was a fervently patriotic Finn, Sibelius grew up speaking Swedish. Donald Macleod looks at the composer's relationship with Sweden and also with the bottle.

Elegie from King Christian II

Iceland Symphony Orchestra

Petri Sakari (conductor)

Sandels

Estonian National Male Choir and Symphony Orchestra

Parvo Järvi (conductor)

Six Songs, Op 36

Anne Sofie von Otter (mezzo soprano)

Bengt Forsberg (piano)

7th Symphony

Icelandic Symphony Orchestra

0220070918

Sibelius's lifelong fascination for the Finnish national epic the Kalevala was the impetus behind many of his works. Donald Macleod introduces the suite salvaged from the wreckage of his first attempt at an opera, a series of legends about a devil-may-care adventurer with an eye for the ladies.

The Broken Voice; Song of my Heart (2 Partsongs for male chorus, Op 18)

Helsinki University Chorus

Matti Hyokki (conductor)

Lemminkainen Suite

Lahti Symphony Orchestra

Osmo Vanska (conductor).

02Berlin, Vienna, Helsinki20130820

Donald Macleod introduces music written by Sibelius during his period of study in Berlin, including his first work based on the Finnish national epic The Kalevala. Sibelius moved to Berlin armed with a scholarship amounting to 2000 Finnish marks, which was to pay for his tuition and maintenance for a year. What the young Finn experienced on his arrival was a quite severe culture shock. Back in Helsinki he was already a figure of national importance, but here in cosmopolitan Berlin, he was just one music student among many, and the place was alive with them. In this city where every musician he encountered seemed to be a virtuoso, Sibelius was intimidated. He found himself, initially, unable to compose at all.

02From Happiness To Despair20180213

Donald Macleod explores Sibelius's rise to prominence.

Donald Macleod delves into the life and work of the man who is almost universally recognised as Finland's greatest ever composer - Jean Sibelius. Sibelius's music went a long way towards establishing a sense of national musical identity in Finland - a tradition that has flourished there ever since. Sibelius felt a strong connection with his homeland and the nature which flourished there, and the nationalist flavour of his works was highly appealing to a Finnish audience at a time when Finland was fighting for independence from Russia. In today's episode, Donald explores Sibelius's rise to prominence with his first big success, Kullervo, the Lemminkainen Suite and his First Symphony; and the problems - both financial and marital - which followed as a result of Sibelius's heavy drinking.

Kullervo's Death (Kullervo)
Karita Mattila (soprano)
Jorma Hynninen (baritone)
Laulun Ystävät Male Choir
Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra
Neeme Järvi (conductor)

Impromptu in B minor, Op 5 No 5
Leif Ove Andsnes (piano)

The Swan of Tuonela (Lemminkainen Suite)
Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra
Leif Segerstam (conductor)

Symphony No 1 (Finale)
Minnesota Orchestra
Osmo Vanska (conductor)

Malinconia
Steven Isserlis (cello)
Olli Mustonen (piano)

Producer: Sam Phillips.

0320060118

Part of Sibelius's initial success in Finland was due to the fact that he was seen as a figurehead by the nationalist movement, keen to be free of their oppressive neighbour and master Tzarist Russia. We hear some of the pieces he wrote to help in that cause.

Scenes Historiques 1

The Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra

Neeme Jarvi (conductor)

Malinconia

Truls Mørk (cello)

Jean-Yves Thibaudet (piano)

In Memoriam

Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra

Oma Maa

Ellerhein Girls School and Estonian National Male Choir and Symphony Orchestra

Paavo Jarvi (conductor).

0320070919

Sibelius had always wanted to be a virtuoso violinist, but an injury early in life together with crippling attacks of stage fright put this ideal well out of reach. However, it didn't stop him writing for the violin and Donald Macleod introduces one of the most popular concertos in the violin repertoire.

Valse Triste

Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra

Jukka-Pekka Saraste (conductor)

Violin Concerto

Maxim Vengerov (violin)

Chicago Symphony Orchestra

Daniel Barenboim (conductor)

Pohjola's Daughter

Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra

Neeme Jarvi (conductor).

03Drowning Sorrows20180214

Donald Macleod focuses on Sibelius's triumphs and troubles before the outbreak of WWI.

Donald Macleod delves into the life and work of the man who is almost universally recognised as Finland's greatest ever composer - Jean Sibelius. Sibelius's music went a long way towards establishing a sense of national musical identity in Finland - a tradition that has flourished there ever since. Sibelius felt a strong connection with his homeland and the nature which flourished there, and the nationalist flavour of his works was highly appealing to a Finnish audience at a time when Finland was fighting for independence from Russia. In today's programme, Donald focuses on the political turmoil in Finland before the outbreak of the First World War, which included an arrest for Sibelius. He also charts a few of the composer's musical triumphs, including his Second Symphony which was adopted as an anthem of national freedom, and increasing personal troubles as his drinking spiralled out of control.

Finlandia Hymn
Dominate Choir
Seppo Murto (director)

Symphony No 2 (Finale)
Hallé
Mark Elder (conductor)

In Memoriam
Turku Philharmonic Orchestra
Leif Segerstam (conductor)

Pohjola's Daughter
Lahti Symphony Orchestra
Osmo Vanska (conductor)

The Maiden with the Roses (Swanwhite Suite)
Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra
Neeme Jarvi (conductor)

Producer: Sam Phillips.

03Sibelius The Patriot20130821

Political tensions within Finland increased with the issuing of the "February Manifesto" in 1899, designed to bring Finland into line with Mother Russia. Up to this time, although Sibelius had been drawing on explicitly Finish elements in his music in a broadly nationalist way, Sibelius took care to keep a safe distance from any kind of direct political involvement. But now, like all self-respecting Finns, Sibelius was incensed. Donald Macleod introduces some of the patriotic compositions the composer produced in the following years.

0420060119

Donald Macleod looks at Sibelius' relationship with Germany and we hear a recording of Sibelius conducting his own Andante Festivo.

Im Feld ein Madchen singen, Op 50, No 3

Katarina Karneus (mezzo soprano)

Julius Drake (piano)

Andante Festivo

The Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra

Sibelius (conductor)

Violin Concerto

Kyung Wha Chung (violin)

London Symphony Orchestra

Andr Previn (conductor)

4th Symphony Mvt 1

Berlin Philharmonic

Herbert von Karajan (conductor).

0420070920

In his early 40s, Sibelius suffered debilitating health problems which, together with his ever-present financial worries, had a dramatic effect on his state of mind. Donald Macleod introduces some of the introspective works which resulted from this difficult time in his life.

Night Ride and Sunrise

Philharmonia Orchestra

Simon Rattle (conductor)

Voces Intimae (5th mvt)

Gabrieli String Quartet

The Bard

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Sakari Oramo (conductor)

Sonatina No 1 in F sharp minor

Erik Tawaststjerna (piano)

Luonnotar

Soile Isokoski (soprano)

Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra

Neeme Jaarvi (conductor).

04A Mountain To Be Climbed20180215

Donald Macleod explores Sibelius's years of enforced sobriety.

Donald Macleod delves into the life and work of the man who is almost universally recognised as Finland's greatest ever composer - Jean Sibelius. Sibelius's music went a long way towards establishing a sense of national musical identity in Finland - a tradition that has flourished there ever since. Sibelius felt a strong connection with his homeland and the nature which flourished there, and the nationalist flavour of his works was highly appealing to a Finnish audience at a time when Finland was fighting for independence from Russia. In today's programme, Donald explores Sibelius's years of enforced sobriety and his attempts to settle his mounting debts as the First World War loomed on the horizon. We'll hear from his next two symphonies - his 4th and 5th - along with one of Sibelius's most performed works - the Valse triste from his incidental music to the play Kuomela.

Valse triste (Kuomela)
Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra
Lorin Maazel (conductor)

Symphony No 4
BBC Philharmonic
John Storgards (conductor)

Bells of Kallio Church
1996 Recording - Kallio Church, Helsinki, Finland

Symphony No 5 (Finale)
Boston Symphony Orchestra
Sir Colin Davis (conductor)

Producer: Sam Phillips.

04A Warning From Above20130822

Years of heavy drinking had taken a toll on the health of Sibelius, to the extent that at the age of only 39, he had tremors in his hands. He was persuaded to move out of the city to a house in the countryside. But word had got around that he was in poor health and people who had funded him in the past turned their backs. Donald Macleod explores the music composed by Sibelius in this period, when, with health problems becoming more acute, the composer receives a "warning from above".

05A Mystery At The End20180216

Donald Macleod explores Sibelius's final years and the mysterious 'silence of Jarvenpaa'.

Donald Macleod delves into the life and work of the man who is almost universally recognised as Finland's greatest ever composer - Jean Sibelius. Sibelius's music went a long way towards establishing a sense of national musical identity in Finland - a tradition that has flourished there ever since. Sibelius felt a strong connection with his homeland and the nature which flourished there, and the nationalist flavour of his works was highly appealing to a Finnish audience at a time when Finland was fighting for independence from Russia. In the final programme of the week, Donald focuses on Sibelius's final years when his period of abstinence from alcohol and cigars lapsed, he worked on the mysterious Eighth Symphony, and then retreated to the "silence of Järvenpää".

Two Schybergson Songs, JS 224
Sångsällskapet Orphei Drangar
Robert Sund (director)

Symphony No 6
London Symphony Orchestra
Sir Colin Davis (conductor)

Chorus of the Winds; Prospero; Dance Episode (The Tempest Suite No 2)
Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra
Neeme Järvi (conductor)

Andante festivo
Finnish Radio Orchestra
Jean Sibelius (conductor)

Song of My Heart, Op 18 no 6
Ylioppilaskunnan Laulajat Male Voice Choir
Matti Hyokki (director).

05 LAST20060120

Sibelius was caught smuggling on his first trip to Britain. The experience did not put him off and he visited again three more times, as Donald Macleod finds out.

Valse Triste

Boston Symphony Orchestra

Vladimir Ashkenazy (conductor)

Jubal

Elisabeth Soderstrom (soprano)

Vladimir Ashkenazy (piano)

Symphony 5

Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra

Mariss Jansons (conductor)

Luonnotar, Op 70

Karita Mattila (soprano)

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Sakari Oramo (conductor).

05 LAST20070921

When Sibelius died in 1957 at the age of 91, he had acquired the status of national icon and the most famous musician in the world, in spite of the fact that he composed virtually nothing during the last 30 years of his life. Donald Macleod introduces a selection of Sibelius's final works, including some of the finest examples of his evocations of his homeland.

Norden, Op 90 No 1

Anne-Sofie von Otter (mezzo-soprano)

Bengt Forsberg (piano)

Oceanides

Lahti Symphony Orchestra

Osmo Vanska (conductor)

Three Humoresques for violin and orchestra, Op 89

Joseph Swensen (violin)

Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra

Jukka-Pekka Saraste (conductor)

The Tempest Prelude

Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra

Neeme Jarvi (conductor)

Tapiola

Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra

Leif Segerstam (conductor).

05 LASTBefore The Silence20130823

Save for a scattering of miniatures and occasional pieces, Sibelius wrote no major compositions after 1926, although he lived for three more decades. Donald Macleod reflects on Sibelius's final works before his legendary period of silence.