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