Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Jean Sibilius 8.12.1957

Jean Sibelius (8 December 1865 – 20 September 1957) was a Finnish composer of the later Romantic period whose music played an important role in the formation of the Finnish national identity. His mastery of the orchestra has been described as "prodigious."
The core of Sibelius's oeuvre is his set of seven symphonies. Like Beethoven, Sibelius used each successive work to further develop his own personal compositional style. His works continue to be performed frequently in the concert hall and are often recorded.
In addition to the symphonies, Sibelius's best-known compositions include Finlandia, the Karelia Suite, Valse triste, the Violin Concerto in D minor and The Swan of Tuonela (one of the four movements of the Lemminkäinen Suite). Other works include pieces inspired by the Finnish national epic, the Kalevala; over 100 songs for voice and piano; incidental music for 13 plays; the opera Jungfrun i tornet (The Maiden in the Tower); chamber music; piano music; Masonic ritual music; and 21 separate publications of choral music.
Sibelius composed prolifically until the mid-1920s. However, after completing his Seventh Symphony (1924), the incidental music to The Tempest (1926), and the tone poem Tapiola (1926), he produced no large-scale works for the remaining thirty years of his life. Although he is reputed to have stopped composing, he in fact attempted to continue writing, including abortive efforts to compose an eighth symphony. He wrote some Masonic music and re-edited some earlier works during this last period of his life, and retained an active interest in new developments in music, although he did not always view modern music favourably. The Finnish 100 mark bill featured his image until it was taken out of circulation in 2002. My dear friend Pia sent me these two covers. Jean Sibelius's 70th birthday was celebrated as a national holiday all over Finland in 1935. A commemorative stamp was issued on Sibelius’s 80th birthday (12-8-1945), and the other FDC was issued to commemorate him after he passed away in 1957.


  1. Some links for those who are interested in reading more about Jean Sibelius:

    Jean Sibelius (1865-1957): Pictorial Chronology

    The silence of Ainola 1945-1957

    Brother Jean Sibelius & Other Finnish Masonic Composers

  2. The Finlandia Hymn refers to a serene hymn-like section of the patriotic symphonic poem Finlandia, written in 1899 and 1900 by the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius. It was later re-worked by the composer into a stand-alone piece.

    With words written in 1941 by Veikko Antero Koskenniemi, the Finlandia Hymn is one of the most important national songs of Finland (though Maamme is the de facto national anthem).

    Other words commonly sung to the same melody include six Christian hymns (Be Still, My Soul; I Sought the Lord; We Rest on Thee; A Christian Home; This Is My Song; and I Then Shall Live), Gweddi dros Gymru or A Prayer for Wales (a national song of Wales), Ambrosian Oaks (the alma mater of St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa), and Land of the Rising Sun (the national anthem of the short-lived African state of Biafra).

    The de facto national anthem of Finland is Maamme (Our Land), but it has never been officially recognised. There have been numerous suggestions that the Finlandia Hymn should become the national anthem. However, Maamme is already so widely recognised and used that it would be difficult to dislodge it. Furthermore, the Finlandia Hymn requires a more advanced musical skill to properly perform.

    A literal translation of the lyrics would be:

    O, Finland, behold, your day is dawning,
    The threat of night has been banished away,
    And the lark of morning in the brightness sings,
    As though the very firmament would sing.
    The powers of the night are vanquished by the morning light,
    Your day is dawning, O land of birth.
    O, rise, Finland, raise up high
    Your head, wreathed with great memories.
    O, rise, Finland, you showed to the world
    That you drove away the slavery,
    And that you did not bend under oppression,
    Your day has come, O land of birth.


    If you want to listen to Finlandia, you can find it here:

  3. Valse triste (Sad Waltz), Op. 44, No. 1, is a short orchestral work in waltz form by the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius. It was originally part of the incidental music he composed for his brother-in-law Arvid Järnefelt's 1903 play Kuolema (Death), but is far better known as a separate concert piece.

    You can listen to Valse Triste here:

  4. And one more link: a Chinese choir from Hong Kong sings the Finlandia Hymn in Finnish - this is absolutely amazing! These people sound almost like they were Finns themselves singing from the heart.