Philip Hale's Boston Symphony Programme Notes: Historical, Critical, and Descriptive Comment on Music and Composers

By John N. Burk; Philip Hale | Go to book overview
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JEAN JULIUS CHRISTIAN
SIBELIUS

(Born at Tavastehus, Finland, December 8, 1865)

SOME, JUDGING the music of Sibelius or rhapsodizing over it, have laid great stress on the fact that Finland is a wild and desolate country. They therefore argue that the music of Sibelius must be bleak and grim. They are also convinced that Sibelius himself must be a stern-visaged man, something of a Berserk, savage and unapproachable, to write as he does. But travelers assure us that in Finland there are smiling landscapes, and we know from personal acquaintance that Mr. Sibelius, like Baptista Minola in the comedy, is "an affable and courteous gentleman." We doubt if climatic conditions, the constitutional qualities or the passive mood of a man necessarily affect his music. Beethoven was in doleful dumps when he wrote one of his most cheerful symphonies. We have heard music by contemporaneous Italian composers that is more barbaric, gloomier than the great majority of that by Scandinavian or Russian musicians.


SYMPHONY NO. I, IN E MINOR, OP. 39
i. Andante ma non troppo; allegro energico
ii. Andante ma non troppo lento
iii. Allegro
iv. Finale (quasi una fantasia): andante; allegro molto

THERE is a marked difference between the mood and the orchestral expression of this First symphony and those of the composer's Fifth and Seventh. Sibelius was not young in years when

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