Writing Programme Notes
Biographical notes on Sibelius
8th December 1865 – Hameenlinna, Finland
Spoke Swedish at home but attended Finnish speaking grammar school (groundbreaking at the time)
1885 moved to Helsinki to study law but also enrolled at the Music Institute and soon abandoned law.
1889 leave to study in Berlin and then Vienna.
April 1892 premiered Kullervo a 5 movement piece for voices and orchestra inspired by Finnish epic poem Kalevala.
18890s political unrest in Finland, due to the increase of decrees coming from the Russian empire. Sibelius produced many works promoting Finnish nationalism.
1896 – his only complete one act opera Jungfrun i Tornet (The Maiden in the Tower)
1898 – First major theatre scorer
1899 First symphony premiered in Helsinki
19904 leave Helsinki for Jarvenpaa
1908 – throat tumour removed
1914 visited the use
1915 – commissioned by Finnish government to write a symphony to be premiered oh his 50th birthday
Mid 1920s onward stopped producing major works
Died 20th September 1957
From 2011 on his birthdate it s flag day, also called The Day of Finnish Music
Score writing programme Sibelius named after him.
Biographical notes on Nielsen
Born 9th June 1865 – Funen Denmark . Parents were poor but musically talented. Learnt to play violin.
1st November 1879 – became a trumpeter in the Sixteen Battalion in Odense
December 1883 – auditioned and took the entrance exam for Conservatory of Music (Royal Danish Academy of Music) and entered on a scholarship
1883/4 -leaves to study in Copenhagen.
1886 – leaves the Conservatory with a good mark but not outstanding
17th September 1887 – official debut as a composer
1889-1890 began a 16 year stay as a second violinist in Chapel Royal Orchestra (Royal Danish Orchestra)
1890-1891 funded by the Ancker Award, he went to study in Germany, Paris and Italy. Getting married along the way.
1894 – took leave from the orchestra agin to travel but this time to promote his own music
1901 onwards – received a state grant of 800 crowns
1903 – signed with publisher Wilhelm Hansen
1904-05 took over as deputy conductor of Royal Orchestra
1908 made permanent conductor
1914 resigned from the Royal Orchestra
1915 became the leader of the Copenhagen Music Society.
Regularly conducted the orchestra in Gothenburg
Died 3rd October 1931
Programme notes for Sibelius’ 5th Symphony
Jean Sibelius – Symphony No5 in E Flat Major Op.82
The Finnish government commissioned Sibelius to write a symphony to celebrate his 50th birthday in 1915. The symphony was a work in progress until 1915, only being completed a short time before its premiere. The defining moment in the composition came on 21st April 1915 when Sibelius saw 16 swans in flight and in his diary described it as “One of the greatest experiences of my life? God, how beautiful.”The complete work was premiered on 8th December 1915, with Sibelius conducting the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, his 50th birthday celebration, and a national holiday in Finland. However the symphony premiered then is not the one you will hear today, there were two more revisions, in 1916 and 1919.
The score uses: 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, timpani and strings. All movements are in a major key, the only one of Sibelius’ symphonies to do this. The first movement opens with a “horn call” motif which occurs throughout the piece. The second movement contains gentle flute and strings, giving a pleasant feel to the piece. Finally the third movement begins with strings playing a rapid melody building up to the conclusion, 6 staggered chords separated by silence. A truly unique and original ending, not in the first version.
As you listen you may think that you have heard parts of the symphony elsewhere. There are examples in popular culture that give a passing nod to the symphony: “Since Yesterday” by Strawberry Switchblade (1984),”I Don’t Believe in Miracles” by Sinitta(1988) and more recently, in “On Melancholy Hill” by Gorillaz. In”Beach Baby “by The First Class (1974), you can hear a straightforward reproduction in the coda of the song