Finlandia Op. 26 (1900) – Jean Sibelius

Jean Sibelius is a Finnish composer and violinist and recognised as his country’s greatest. Today’s piece Finlandia was composed for the Press Celebrations of 1899, a covert protest against increasing censorship from the Russian Empire, and was the last of seven pieces performed as an accompaniment to a tableau depicting episodes from Finnish history. Jean Sibelius’ music is often credited with having helped Finland develop a national identity during its struggle for independence from Russia.

To avoid Russian censorship, Finlandia had to be performed under alternative names at various musical concerts. Titles under which the piece masqueraded were numerous and often confusing —famous examples include Happy Feelings at the awakening of Finnish Spring, and A Scandinavian Choral March.

Sibelius composed prolifically until the mid-1920s, but after completing his Seventh Symphony (1924), the incidental music for The Tempest (1926) and the tone poem Tapiola (1926), he stopped producing major works in his last thirty years, a stunning and perplexing decline commonly referred to as the “silence of Järvenpää”, the location of his home.

Finlandia is an extraordinary piece of music. It’s difficult not to be in awe of its beauty and worth. I know next to nothing about Finland, but this music alone (along with the video images below) makes me want to visit. My favourite part of the piece is from 6:20 below when it slows down and turns into something entirely new. It then has one of the most satisfying endings to a classical piece I have heard.

References:
1. Finlandia – wikipedia
2. Jean Sibelius – wikipedia

“The more I live, the more I learn. The more I learn, the more I realize, the less I know.”- Michel Legrand

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10 comments on “Finlandia Op. 26 (1900) – Jean Sibelius
  1. Sibelius is definitely one of my favourite composers. As a teen I was “addicted” to his tone poem “The Swan of Tuonela”.

    • I hadn’t heard of him until researching this piece. Your knowledge of classical music is impressive Bruce. How did you learn about these great composers in your youth?

      • I got given a collection of 12 long-playing classical records for my 12th birthday from my parents! Finlandia was on it! and The Swan of Tuonela. The collection started with Bach, and Sibelius was the most modern composer in the collection.

      • Good breeding! How many prepubescent kids were given those treasures in NZ in that era?
        I wish I had parents like that, not to say they weren’t good parents – on the contrary.
        I had a Grandmother pianist who listened to classical music all-day long, but Dorothy would only play piano for us. Classical music was her pride and joy. It’s definitely left it’s mark wouldn’t you say!! Jaja

      • Yes, I’ve heard you speak of your grandmother before. These things rub off!

  2. It’s a gorgeous piece! I’m not too terribly familiar with Sibelius, although I’ve heard his magnificent Symphony No. 2. His music reminds me a bit of his contemporary Rachmaninoff, who’s my favorite composer. I wrote a blog post two years ago about Rachmaninoff’s “Rhapsody On a Theme of Paganini”, but should write about classical music more often.

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