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Donald Macleod explores three of Sibelius's most powerful - and unusual - evocations of the Finnish character.

Donald Macleod explores three of Sibelius's most powerful - and unusual - evocations of the Finnish character.

150 years after he was born, Jean Sibelius remains the most famous and important artistic figure in Finland's history, and indeed, their most famous celebrity in any field. His music helped rouse the Finnish people and galvanise their struggle for independence - and yet, the long life of this proud Finn (he lived to the age of 91) is a mass of contradictions. At home, Sibelius spoke Swedish, the language of his childhood, and it's often forgotten he was a Russian citizen until he was 52. This week, in conversation with the Sibelius scholar Glenda Goss, Donald Macleod explores the key musical works by Sibelius that helped articulate the idea and essence of Finnish identity.

After the dramatic political assassinations of the early 1900s, Finland found itself waiting for independence as the Russian Empire took its Grand Duchy into the First World War. Meanwhile, a weary Sibelius created two of his most powerful works based on Finland's national epic, the Kalevala: the symphonic poem Pohjola's Daughter, and the extraordinary scena for soprano and orchestra, Luonnotar. The programme also explores one of Sibelius's least-known chamber works, yet one full of profound and dramatic musical statements: his incidental music to the play Ödlan.

Erlöschen (Burned Out)
Tom Krause, bass-baritone
Irwin Gage, piano

Pohjola's Daughter, Op.49
Hallé Orchestra
Sir Mark Elder, conductor

Ödlan (The Lizard), Op.8
Laura Vikman, solo violin
Jaako Kuusisto, violin
Jykri Lasonpalo, violin
Anna Kreetta Gribajcevic, viola
Taneli Turunen, cello
Eero Munter, double bass

Luonnotar
Soile Isokoski, soprano
Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra
Leif Segerstam, conductor

Give Me No Splendour, Gold, or Pomp
Lilla Academy Boys' Choir

First broadcast in December 2015 as part of BBC Radio 3's "Northern Lights" season.

1 hour

Music Played

  • Jean Sibelius

    Erloschen (Burned Out)

    Performer: Irwin Gage. Singer: Tom Krause.
    • DECCA : 476-1725.
    • DECCA.
    • 7.
  • Jean Sibelius

    Pohjola's Daughter, Op.49

    Orchestra: Hallé. Conductor: Sir Mark Elder.
    • HALLE : CD HLL 7516.
    • HALLE.
    • 1.
  • Jean Sibelius

    Ödlan, Op.8

    Performer: Laura Vikman. Performer: Jaakko Kuusisto. Performer: Anna Kreetta Gribajcevic. Performer: Taneli Turunen.
  • Jean Sibelius

    Luonnotar

    Singer: Soile Isokoski. Orchestra: Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra. Conductor: Leif Segerstam.
    • ONDINE : ODE-1080-5.
    • ONDINE.
    • 4.
  • Jean Sibelius

    Give Me No Splendour, Gold, or Pomp

    Choir: Lilla Academy Boys Choir.
    • BISCD-1930/32.
    • BISCD-.
    • 26.

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