Thursday, September 29, 2016
Finnish-born composer Jean Sibelius died on September 20, 1957 at the age of 91. He had composed symphonies, tone poems, and shorter pieces. For me, the violin concerto represents his ultimate achievement. This work is filled with wonderful melodies, as well as amazing technical demonstrations of the violinist’s capabilities. Sibelius was a violinist himself, and so he composed out of a total familiarity with what the instrument was capable of doing. Brahms also produced a violin masterpiece, but the composer was a pianist, and he required help from his friend, Joseph Joachim, to make certain passages more playable. As I recall, I first heard the Sibelius concerto performed by Russian violinist David Oistrakh many years ago. I was stunned by its beauty. Here is the late violinist David Oistrakh, performing the Sinelius concerto:
The Philharmonia’s principal conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen wants you to join his virtual symphony orchestra. He talks VR and the future of concertgoingIt is every orchestral player’s greatest anxiety dream. You are sitting on stage at the Royal Festival Hall as the Philharmonia’s Principal Conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen strides up to the podium. He looks you directly in the eye and raises his baton for the first downbeat. It is only then that you realise you have forgotten your instrument, or even how to play one. But this is not a dream – it’s real. Or virtually real. Welcome to Britain’s first fully immersive, 360 degree, non-existent orchestra. Cyber-orchestras seem to be gaining traction at the moment, though the Philharmonia’s project is a very different beast from the BBC’s Virtual Orchestra, which invited the contribution of more than 1,000 amateur musicians to the Last Night of the Proms via their smartphones. Instead, it pitches the viewer into the heart of a top-flight, professional ensemble as it performs the final movement of Sibelius’s fifth symphony. Continue reading...
From the classical archive, 4 December 1905: Sibelius’s first public appearance in England, conducting his symphony no 1, and FinlandiaThe Liverpool Orchestral Society’s Concert of Saturday was another of those refreshingly new experiences that one has learned to expect from this organisation. Sibelius’s First Symphony and his tone-poem Finlandia had been given before by the same Society, under Mr. Granville Bantock, at a concert in March of the present year, but an isolated performance of music so novel as that of Sibelius really gives one very little insight into it. It was good to have the works repeated, while special interest attached to the hearing of them under the bâton of the composer himself. Sibelius had intended to be present at the March concert, but was prevented at the last moment from coming over; this time Mr. Bantock was fortunate enough to secure him.It is the first visit of Sibelius to England, and last Saturday’s was his first public appearance in this country. English knowledge of him rests solely upon the performance of two or three works of his in London, a solitary performance of his Second Symphony by Dr. Richter in Manchester last season, and the two Liverpool concerts. His work is fairly considerable in quantity, and includes two symphonies, some suites and symphonic poems, the first Finnish opera, and a number of songs. He is now working at a third symphony, a new symphonic poem based on a Finnish mythological subject, and a work that should excite exceptional interest both in Finland and abroad, the nature of which, however, he desires should not be made public at present. He is still a young man; he attains his fortieth year on the 8th of the present month. Continue reading...
What does your physician do to relieve stress? Plays the cello. In Germany, the doctors have joined up into a Bundesärztekammerphilharmonie. Opening concert in Hamburg, October 3. Works by Alberic Magnard, Marko Mihevc and Jean Sibelius, themed ‘An das Leben’. Photo: Matthew Brunwasser
Barbican, London The Norwegian pianist’s performance was technically and musically, but lacked personality and riskLeif Ove Andsnes’s recital was a legacy from last season, when he featured in one of the LSO’s artist portraits. The solo appearance that was part of that residency had to be postponed, and rescheduling it now, Andsnes stuck more or less to his original programme, or at least to the same collection of composers: Beethoven, Sibelius, Debussy and Chopin.There was, though, something rather routine about it all. The Beethoven sonata with which Andsnes opened, the E flat Op 31 No 3, promised better in its clear outlines, clean textures and crisply sprung rhythms. It wasn’t especially characterful or witty, just a genial, well-mannered account of the most easygoing of the Op 31 sonatas. The piano pieces by Sibelius, though, needed something more than good manners to make them seem worthwhile. Andsnes had plundered several collections to make his sequence, from the Impromptus of the early 1890s to the weird, spiky Rondino of 1912, and the Schumann-like Elegiaco of a few years later, but there was never enough personality, in the music or the performances, to make them memorable. Continue reading...
Skride/Skride (Orfeo)There will be something new and intriguing for most chamber-music fans in this recital by Latvian violinist Baiba Skride and her pianist sister Lauma, which brings together relatively little-known violin pieces by the leading Nordic composers of the early 20th century. The most envelope-pushing work – and the one that makes the most of Baiba’s characteristic intensity of tone and muscular yet seamless phrasing – is the 1912 Sonata No 2 by Nielsen, its first movement a seething, searching bundle of mood-swings, its finale a deceptively relaxed waltz that in one striking passage anticipates the climbdown from one of the climaxes in the Fourth Symphony, begun two years later. The sisters are ideally matched, too, in four miniatures, Op 78, which find Sibelius in effortlessly lyrical mode, plus Grieg’s folk-inspired 1867 Sonata No 2 and the long, wistful lines of Stenhammar’s Sonata from 1900. Why are these works not played more often? Continue reading...
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.
Great composers of classical music