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Jean Sibelius and His World

Jean Sibelius and His World

Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 352
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  • Book Info
    Jean Sibelius and His World
    Book Description:

    Perhaps no twentieth-century composer has provoked a more varied reaction among the music-loving public than Jean Sibelius (1865-1957). Originally hailed as a new Beethoven by much of the Anglo-Saxon world, he was also widely disparaged by critics more receptive to newer trends in music. At the height of his popular appeal, he was revered as the embodiment of Finnish nationalism and the apostle of a new musical naturalism. Yet he seemingly chose that moment to stop composing altogether, despite living for three more decades. Providing wide cultural contexts, contesting received ideas about modernism, and interrogating notions of landscape and nature,Jean Sibelius and His Worldsheds new light on the critical position occupied by Sibelius in the Western musical tradition.

    The essays in the book explore such varied themes as the impact of Russian musical traditions on Sibelius, his compositional process, Sibelius and the theater, his understanding of music as a fluid and improvised creation, his critical reception in Great Britain and America, his "late style" in the incidental music forThe Tempest, and the parallel contemporary careers of Sibelius and Richard Strauss.

    Documents include the draft of Sibelius's 1896 lecture on folk music, selections from a roman à clef about his student circle in Berlin at the turn of the century, Theodor Adorno's brief but controversial tirade against the composer, and the newspaper debates about the Sibelius monument unveiled in Helsinki a decade after the composer's death.

    The contributors are Byron Adams, Leon Botstein, Philip Ross Bullock, Glenda Dawn Goss, Daniel Grimley, Jeffrey Kallberg, Tomi Mäkelä, Sarah Menin, Max Paddison, and Timo Virtanen.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-4020-5
    Subjects: History, Music

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments and Permissions
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Daniel M. Grimley
  4. Sibelius, Finland, and the Idea of Landscape
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Daniel M. Grimley

    • Sibelius and the Russian Traditions
      (pp. 3-57)

      To discuss the music of Jean Sibelius in the context of Russian culture and history is to broach complex questions of national identity and musical influence. Although Finland’s status between 1809 and 1917 as a Grand Duchy within the Russian Empire has been the subject of considerable recent work by revisionist historians, the policies of extreme Russification that were in place between 1899 and Finland’s eventual independence eighteen years later have tended to cast the debate in terms of how a small nation bravely won self-determination despite the predations of a vast and arrogant imperial power.¹ This historiographical discourse has...

    • From Heaven’s Floor to the Composer’s Desk: Sibelius’s Musical Manuscripts and Compositional Process
      (pp. 58-73)

      In the summer of 1943, while in conversation with his son-in-law conductor Jussi Jalas, the seventy-seven-year-old composer Jean Sibelius is reported to have declared: “Remember that after my death all my sketches must be burned. I don’t want anybody to write ‘Sibelius’sletzter Gedanke,’ or the like.” And, he added: “Sketches are often finer than the original. Michelangelo, for instance.”¹ Even a devoted admirer such as Jalas, who dutifully took notes from his discussions with Sibelius and often quoted the composer’s statements in his own writings, knew that his master’s words were to be taken with a certain reservation. And,...

    • Theatrical Sibelius: The Melodramatic Lizard
      (pp. 74-88)

      For nearly thirty years of his career starting around 1898, Sibelius regularly wrote music to accompany productions of staged drama. Paradoxically, his considerable engagement with the theater of his time remains obscure. On the one hand, thanks first to Sibelius’s own concert suite arrangements of large portions of the music he composed for dramatic productions and, second, to the recent spate of recordings of both these concert suites and the majority of the original dramatic scores, we can listen with ease to nearly all of the remarkable music he wrote for the theater.¹ On the other hand, since the scores...

    • The Wings of a Butterfly: Sibelius and the Problems of Musical Modernity
      (pp. 89-124)

      At the beginning of his essay on music theory in secondary schools, Ernst Hofmann presents these beautiful lines as the translation of an authentic quotation from Jean Sibelius.: “I could, dear distinguished friend, introduce you to my work, but as a matter of principle I do not do so. Compositions to me are like butterflies. Once you have touched them, their magic is gone. They can still fly but they are not as pristine as before.”¹ Sibelius’s attitude, as presented here, is a provocative motto. In contrast, Hofmann courageously pleads for more music theory in the classroom: “It is not...

    • “Thor’s Hammer”: Sibelius and British Music Critics, 1905–1957
      (pp. 125-157)

      Yielding to an ill-advised impulse for self-revelation, the German philosopher Theodor W. Adorno (1903–1969) retailed the following anecdote in print: “More than thirty years ago I once asked Ernest Newman, the initiator of Sibelius’s fame, about the qualities of the Finnish composer. After all, I said, he had adopted none of the advances in compositional techniques that had been made throughout Europe; his symphonies combined meaningless and trivial elements with illogical and profoundly unintelligible ones; he mistook esthetic formlessness for the voice of nature. Newman, from whose urbane all-round skepticism someone bred in the German tradition had much to...

    • Jean Sibelius and His American Connections
      (pp. 158-172)

      Conventional wisdom has often held that Jean Sibelius’s most vital musical connections outside Finland were primarily with the Austro-German world. Yet, as ever with topics both Finnish and Sibelian, the reality is far more complex. For one thing, two of Sibelius’s greatest tone poems—The OceanidesandTapiola—were composed for the United States of America. For another, there is evidence to suggest that this composer’s only trip to the United States, in the year 1914, was among the high points of his professional life. And it seems never to have been pointed out that, throughout his adult life, Sibelius...

    • Art and the Ideology of Nature: Sibelius, Hamsun, Adorno
      (pp. 173-185)

      It is a long-established view that the music of Sibelius portrays nature and landscape, together with a specific sense of place and the spirit of its people—Finland, a land of sparsely populated forests and lakes. This view dominated the reception of the composer, particularly in Scandinavia, Britain, and the United States in the first half of the twentieth century; furthermore, as Tomi Mäkelä has shown, it was also the case in Germany in the early years of the century, and then, after a period of disdainful neglect between the wars, it surfaced again in the late 1930s, when it...

    • Storms, Symphonies, Silence: Sibelius’s Tempest Music and the Invention of Late Style
      (pp. 186-226)

      The last thirty years of Sibelius’s life have cast a long shadow over writing on the composer and our understanding of his music.¹ The creative silence that effectively followed the completion of his final tone poem,Tapiola, in 1926, remains a deeply ambivalent episode in Sibelius’s career and his critical reception. For some contemporary English writers in the 1930s and ’40s, most notoriously Cecil Gray and Constant Lambert, waiting (in vain) for the appearance of the long-promised Eighth Symphony, Sibelius’s late works presented an elliptical spiritual language at its optimum point of refinement and expression, ane plus ultrathat...

    • Waving from the Periphery: Sibelius, Aalto, and the Finnish Pavilions
      (pp. 227-255)

      In 1900, Jean Sibelius accompanied a delegation of Finnish cultural figures to the Paris World Fair, where he performed a series of pieces including his recent workFinlandia—under the politically expedient title,La patrie.¹ This event marked a breakthrough in Sibelius’s international career. But it was simultaneously an important milestone in Finland’s attempts to gain cultural independence from Russia—a prelude to the political independence that it would seize at the outbreak of the Russian Revolution in 1917. Four decades later, at the 1939 New York World’s Fair, Finland’s cultural heroes met again to draw the world’s attention to...

    • Old Masters: Jean Sibelius and Richard Strauss in the Twentieth Century
      (pp. 256-304)

      Jean Sibelius and Richard Strauss were born a year and a half apart, in December 1865 and June 1864 respectively. They were contemporaries within the same generation of European artists and musicians. Both lived remarkably long lives and survived two world wars. By the outbreak of World War I they were well established as leading figures not only in their respective regional and national communities and throughout Europe, but also in North America—which Strauss visited in 1904, and Sibelius in 1914, to great acclaim.

      For Sibelius and Strauss, the years immediately preceding World War I and the war years...


    • Selections from Adolf Paul’s A Book About a Human Being
      (pp. 307-314)

      After Sibelius graduated from the Helsinki Music Institute in the summer of 1889, where he had taken instruction with Martin Wegelius and the young Ferruccio Busoni, he decided to continue his studies not in Finland, where educational opportunities were ultimately limited, but in Germany, at the very center of the European musical marketplace. Having received a government stipend of 2,000 Finnish marks in May, Sibelius left Helsinki in September to begin lessons in harmony and counterpoint in Berlin with Albert Becker (1834–1899), director of the Königlicher Domchor and composer of numerous vocal, orchestral, and liturgical works including aReformation...

    • Some Viewpoints Concerning Folk Music and Its Influence on the Musical Arts
      (pp. 315-325)

      Sibelius was, by conventional academic standards, little more than a middling student at Martin Wegelius’s Music Institute, having aborted his legal studies at Helsinki University. Evidently he felt ill at ease throughout his life in formal academic institutional surroundings. Sibelius’s strengths rather lay in an idea of music as an essentially private creative practice, an ability to synthesize a rich range of musical styles and compositional models, and above all in the acute sensitivity of his aural imagination. As Tomi Mäkelä explains in his essay for this volume, Sibelius never sought to create a formal school of composition, and his...

    • Selection from Erik Furuhjelm’s Jean Sibelius: A Survey of his Life and Music
      (pp. 326-330)

      Erik Furuhjelm’s biography of Sibelius (Stockholm: Albert Bonniers Förlag, 1917) is a landmark volume in the composer’s reception and one of earliest substantial monographs on the composer’s life and work to be published in the North. A composer and teacher as well as a music critic, Furuhjelm (1883–1964) worked at the Helsinki Music Conservatory (later the Sibelius Academy) between 1907 and 1935, and, alongside musicologist and folklorist Otto Andersson, was one of the leading musical authorities in the Swedish-Finnish cultural movement in the first half of the twentieth century.

      Furuhjelm’s book, as he explained in his preface, was initially...

    • Adorno on Sibelius
      (pp. 331-337)

      Theodor W. Adorno’s short, trenchant critique, “Glosse über Sibelius,” has gained significance in Sibelius criticism out of all proportion to its length. First published in theZeitschrift für Sozialforschungin 1938, and reprinted inImpromptusthirty years later, it was written at a pivotal point in Adorno’s life: the year he emigrated to the United States, after having been resident at Oxford’s Merton College since 1934, when he was forced to flee Germany because of the rise of the Nazi regime. The critique is closely contemporary with other of his key articles on musical aesthetics, including “On the Fetish-Character of...

    • Monumentalizing Sibelius: Eila Hiltunen and the Sibelius Memorial Controversy
      (pp. 338-353)

      On the western outskirts of central Helsinki, on the edge of a leafy suburb en route to Seurasaari, the open-air island museum that is the summer haunt of tourists, tour buses, and picnicking locals, stands Eila Hiltunen’s Sibelius monument,Passio Musicæ.Though it has now become one of the city’s principal sights, reproduced on countless “Greetings from Helsinki” postcards, the monument was highly controversial when it was first unveiled by Finnish president Urho Kekkonen on 7 September 1967, following a two-stage competition in 1961–62.¹ Strenuous objections were made in the local press to the abstract non-representational design, which consists...

  7. Index
    (pp. 355-367)
  8. Notes on the Contributors
    (pp. 368-370)
  9. Back Matter
    (pp. 371-372)