Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Composer Focus: Jean Sibelius (part two)

 Returning to Sibelius!

The land of Karelia is a region in northern Europe that currently comprises sections of Eastern Finland, and Northwestern Russia. Like Alsace-Lorraine between France and Germany, Karelia is a land that has been disputed for centuries, and the scene of many armed conflicts as powers east and west of it struggled to hold it. Today the region of Karelia is split in two.

Sibelius, in his early years of composing, was also fiercely invested in Finnish nationalism and independence, so he was happy to accept a commission from a students' organization in the Viipuri province, a part of the Karelian region. At first he wrote a tableau of eleven movements, each one with a specific folk-like and rustic character designed to appeal to the nationalistic feelings of the region. Later, Sibelius condensed the larger work down to the Karelia Suite, which is one of his most enduring works.

Unfortunately, the original version of the larger tableau is lost, the score having been burned by Sibelius's own hand. But most of the orchestral parts survived, allowing a reconstruction in the 1960s, with the missing parts being completed by Finnish musicologists. Luckily the Suite has survived. It comprises two march-like movements, brassy and bold and thrilling, bracketing a Ballade that is evocative and lyrical.

Here is the Karelia Suite by Jean Sibelius.

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