Composer Jean Sibelius’ 150th birth anniversary is being celebrated throughout the U.S. and his native Finland — including heavy metal music by his great-grandson, and piano concerts by his great-granddaughter.
“From Finland with Love: Songs of my Great Grandfather”, will be performed by Sibelius’ great-granddaughter, pianist Ruusamari Teppo, and cellist Jussi Makkonen, several times in March in Washington state and at Oregon’s Astoria Music Festival.
Teppo will also be a guest speaker during the Seattle Symphony Orchestra’s three-week Sibelius festival, performing all seven of his completed symphonies. It begins March 12 with the first two symphonies and his symphonic poem “Finlandia”.
By far best-known for “Finlandia”, Sibelius (Dec. 8, 1865-1957) also composed a violin concerto, “Valse triste”, plus more than 100 songs, in addition to symphonies. “Never write an unnecessary note. Every note must live.”
Sibelius’ Seventh Symphony will be performed also in the other Washington area, at Strathmore Music Center, North Bethesda, Maryland on June 6. The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra performance, with cellist Mischa Maisky, will have a pre-concert lecture by Levine Music School faculty member and composer Joel Friedman.
Perhaps Friedman will shed light on the supposedly “lost” Eighth Symphony. Sibelius struggled for years on an eighth symphony, and said, “…I should like to complete one work. If I die before that everything has been in vain.” He died at age 91 without finishing it.
The composer destroyed its advanced sketches in what’s called “the great bonfire” at his home in 1945. But a scholar found what he termed “apparent sketches for the Eighth Symphony” in documents at Finland’s National Library. A musicologist later concurred, and the Helsinki Philharmonic played those segments in 2011.
Another major celebration is a Sibelius Festival that will be the centerpiece of the annual FinnFest USA Oct. 8-12 in Buffalo.
For events in the U.S., check Finlandia Foundation® National, http://finlandiafoundation.org/sibelius-150-calendar.
In Finland, where his birthday, Dec. 8, is Finnish Music Day, events include an International Jean Sibelius Violin Competition, international conference for Sibelius scholars, and several Sibelius festivals.
For “Sibelius 150” celebrations in Finland, click here, www.sibelius150.fi/ (in English and Finnish).
Sibelius Park, in his hometown Hämeenlinna in south central Finland, recently unveiled five benches that play his music whenever someone sits on them. Each plays a selection from Sibelius’s Five Pieces for Piano (1914-1919), each named for a type of tree. The Birch is the best-known, explains Erkki Korhonen, director of the Sibelius Birth Town Foundation and former director of the Finnish National Opera.
Sibelius’ great-grandson, Lauri Porra, sometimes plays bars of his great-grandfather’s famed “Finlandia” during a bass solo with his popular heavy metal band, Stratovarius. Its Facebook page has way more than 1.2 million likes. Click here to hear selections.
Sibelius’ works belie what he once wrote in his diary, terming them “a spittoon”: “The mirror of a sensitive soul or – if you wish – a spittoon. I will definitely never become the great composer that I…dreamt I would be.”
In agreement, or probably in jealousy, fellow composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov told him after hearing Sibelius’ third symphony, “Why don’t you do it the usual way; you will see that the audience can neither follow nor understand this.”
Years later, in 1940, Sibelius commented “And now I am certain that my symphonies are played more than his.”
Finland’s greatest composer also commented, “Music begins where the possibilities of language end. That is why I write music.”
For more info: For Sibelius 150th anniversary events in the U.S., For events in the U.S., For events in the U.S., check Finlandia Foundation® National, http://finlandiafoundation.org/sibelius-150-calendar. For celebrations in Finland, “Sibelius 150”, check www.sibelius150.fi/, Official travel guide to Finland: http://www.visitfinland.com/about-us/.