Classical Album of the Week

Classical Album of the Week

On December 8 of this year, Finland’s great national composer, Jean Sibelius, would have been able to celebrate his 150th birthday.

Sibelius was a grand composer of his time, and much of his music is still among the most frequently performed in the world’s concert halls. Upon his death, he left a giant oeuvre behind him — as evidenced in this compilation’s 7-hour duration — which included his symphonies and orchestral works, as well as songs, and piano- and chamber-music.

His legs were firmly planted in the Finnish soil and this is very clearly heard in his musical language. Along with composers such as Denmark’s Carl Nielsen and Norway’s Edward Grieg, he belongs to the group of national romantic composers who left their distinct musical footprints in the Nordic music scene at the turn of the 20th century.

Johan Julius Christian Sibelius was born while Finland was under to the rule of the Russian Czar, and with his music he helped shape the Finnish national identity, following the country’s independence in 1917.

He was inspired by contemporary composers such as Tchaikowsky and Wagner, but simultaneously had his own very personal style, which made him as popular then as he is today. Works like his 7th symphony, the tone-poem “Finlandia,” and songs like “Säf, Säf Susa” and “Flickan came ifrån sin älsklings’s möte,” belong in the core repertoire of classical music and are still loved by musicians and listeners worldwide.

The nickname Jean, which Sibelius used from 1896 and onwards, comes from Janne, which was his nickname in his Swedish speaking family. He was, however, a troubled soul with a difficult mind that reportedly prevented him from composing a single piece in the last three decades of his life. According to the myth, after completing his 8th symphony, he proceeded to burn it in his stove until nothing was left.

Sibelius died in 1957, and many thousands participated in a memorial service in the cathedral in Helsinki and the conservatory where Sibelius himself studied. It was later named after him: the Sibelius Academy.

Enjoy Jean Sibelius’ beautiful repertoire on this week’s Classical Album, performed by one of the very orchestra’s he worked with: the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra and their former [Finnish] Chief Conductor, Neeme Järvi.

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