Sibelius - The Rest Is Silence? (the Years 1925-1957)

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012009051820110117

Donald Macleod outlines the background behind Sibelius' tone poem Tapiola.

In the late 1920s, at the very height of his powers, Jean Sibelius abruptly and enigmatically put down his pen.For three decades until his death in 1957 at the age of 91, he was to produce virtually no new work - living out the rest of his life shrouded in silent mystery in the depths of the forests, north of Helsinki.

Or did he? In this week's Composer Of The Week, Donald MacLeod explores and explodes the mythology cloaking the last decades of Sibelius' life.a period not quite as 'silent' as legend might have us believe.

Today's episode outlines the background behind Sibelius' last, and perhaps greatest, major orchestral work, his extraordinary, terrifying tone poem Tapiola - as well as an unexpected pair of solemn and reverent church antiphons.not at all what you might expect from this master of orchestral colour.

Donald Macleod explores the mythology cloaking the last decades of Sibelius' life.

He outlines the background behind Sibelius' last, and perhaps greatest, major orchestral work - his tone poem Tapiola - as well as an unexpected pair of solemn and reverent church antiphons.

Morceau Romantique sur un motif de Monsieur Jakob de Julin (1925)

Lahti Symphony Orchestra

Osmo Vanska (conductor)

BIS CD1445, Tr 7

World Premiere Recording

022009051920110118

Donald Macleod presents an extended performance of Sibelius' music for The Tempest.

The years 1926-7 saw farewells to two of the greatest preoccupations of Sibelius' career.

The cantata Väinön Virsi marked the end of the composer's lifelong obsession with the Kalevala, his nation's epic collection of ancient poems, chants and ballads.

Meanwhile, as one newspaper proclaimed: "Sibelius and Shakespeare, two geniuses, have found each other".

Donald Macleod introduces an extended performance of Sibelius' Prelude and Suites of incidental music composed for a performance of The Tempest in 1926 - the last of no fewer than 11 theatre music works, spanning the composer's career.

Donald Macleod explores the mythology cloaking the last decades of Sibelius' life.

He introduces an extended performance of Sibelius' Prelude and Suites of incidental music, composed for a performance of The Tempest in 1926 - the last of no fewer than 11 theatre music works spanning the composer's career.

There is also a recording of Vainon Versi, the last work inspired by his lifelong love of the Kalevala national epic.

Den Hoga Himlen (The Lofty Heav'n), Op 113, No 11 (1927)

Jubilate Choir

Astrid Riska (conductor)

ONDINE ODE8052, Tr 20

Vainon Virsi (Vaino's Song, 1926)

032009052020110119

Donald Macleod explores the full, tragic saga of Sibelius' never-completed Symphony No 8.

In today's episode, Donald Macleod untangles the full, tragic saga of Sibelius' Eighth Symphony - from its initial conception, through the composer's years of tortuous evasions, mysterious allusions and lacerating self-criticism.tantalising periods of hope (as recorded in the composer's diary).and the work's final, devastating annihilation for all time.

We'll hear a series of chamber works written almost as a pressure release (or calculated avoidance?), as Sibelius struggled painfully with his magnum opus that never was.as well as a vintage 1933 performance of the composer's Seventh Symphony, conducted by a man who dreamed of giving the premiere of its successor: Serge Koussevitsky.

Donald Macleod explores the mythology cloaking the last decades of Sibelius' life.

He untangles the full, tragic saga of Sibelius' Eighth Symphony - from its initial conception, through the composer's years of tortuous evasions, mysterious allusions and self-criticism, through periods of hope, and then to the work's destruction.

Including a series of chamber works written as Sibelius struggled with his magnum opus that never was, as well as a vintage 1933 performance of the composer's Seventh Symphony, conducted by a man who dreamed of giving the premiere of its successor - Serge Koussevitsky.

Canzonetta (Kuolema/Death), arr Stravinsky

The Avanti Orchestra

Jukka-Pekka Saraste (conductor)

BIS CD292

Humoreske (Four Pieces for violin and piano, Op 115 - 1929)

Pekka Kuusisto (violin)

Heini Karkkainen (piano)

ONDINE ODE10462, Tr 17

Five Esquisses, Op 114 (1928-9)

Erik Tawastjerna (piano)

BIS CD278, Trs 21 to 25

Suite for Violin and Strings, Op 117 (1929)

Christian Tetzlaff (violin)

Danish National Symphony Orchestra

Thomas Dausgaard (conductor)

VIRGIN CLASSICS 545532, Trs 14-16

Symphony No 7 in C, Op 105 (excerpts)

BBC Symphony Orchestra

Serge Koussevitsky (conductor)

Recorded in Queens's Hall, London on May 15, 1933

EMI 5659182, Trs 9 to 12.

042009052120110120

With Donald Macleod.

Late works for organ, plus the only recording of Sibelius conducting.

In today's episode, Donald Macleod introduces the only existing recording of Sibelius conducting - a colourful rendition of his own Andante Festivo on New Year's Day, 1939.

We'll also hear the extraordinary Funeral Music for organ, written after the death of one of his greatest friends, the painter Akseli GallÚn-Kallela in 1931 - and usually considered his last work.

Sibelius, by now wracked by writer's block over the Eighth Symphony, tried his hardest to wriggle out of his commitment to mark his friend's passing in music.

But, unable to escape, he produced a bizarre, otherworldly soundworld.like nothing he'd ever written before.

So then: his last original work? Not quite.

Donald explores the extraordinary story of Sibelius' music for the Freemasons.and we'll hear two brief pieces, apparently written in a single, fevered night in 1946 - the first new pieces for some 15 years, and the last Sibelius was to ever let see light of day.

He introduces the only existing recording of Sibelius conducting - a colourful rendition of his own Andante Festivo on New Year's Day, 1939.

With the Funeral Music for organ, written after the death of one of the composer's greatest friends - painter Akseli Gallen-Kallela in 1931 - and usually considered his last work.

Sibelius, by now experiencing writer's block over the Eighth Symphony, tried to wriggle out of his commitment to mark his friend's passing in music.

But, unable to escape, he produced what was seen as a bizarre, otherworldly piece, like nothing he had ever written before.

Donald also explores the story of Sibelius' music for the Freemasons, as well as introducing two brief pieces, apparently written in a single night in 1946, which were his first new pieces for some 15 years, and the last Sibelius was to ever let see light of day.

Andante Festivo for strings and timpani (ad lib, 1922/arr 1938)

05 LAST2009052220110121

Donald Macleod presents Sibelius' last arrangements, plus the finale from his 5th Symphony

Donald Macleod explores the mythology cloaking the last decades of Sibelius' life.

He introduces a series of curious arrangements the composer made in his ninth and tenth decades, including a hymn for girl scouts.

Plus a work that brings Sibelius' life and career full circle - his late revision of part of Kullervo, originally written as a young hopeful, some 60 years earlier.

In Memoriam (1913)

Hungarian State Symphony Orchestra

Jussi Jalas (conductor)

1973 Recording

DECCA 'Ace of Diamonds' SDD488

The World Song of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, arr for two-part female voices and piano (1918/1952)

Gustav Djupsjobacka (piano)

Jubilate Choir

Astrid Riska (conductor)

BIS CD998, Tr 29

Julvisa: Giv Mig Ej Glas, Ej Guld, Ej Prakt (Christmas Song: Give Me No Gold, Splendour Or Pomp), arr for children's choir (1909/1954)

BIS CD998, Tr 26

Kullervo and his Sister (Kullervo, Op 7 - 1892)