Happy Birthday, Jean Sibelius! I love the symphonies of Sibelius (with the possible exception of No. 2, and that’s only because of the endless scale patterns that annoy me to play – I love listening to it), and I have since before there was ever an inkling that I’d make music my profession. NPR has celebrated by digging into its archives and finding interviews with Michael Steinberg covering each of the symphonies. Each one is just a couple minutes long, and Steinberg has a way of talking about music that is both erudite and easy to understand – a rare combination!
My own favorites?
- No. 5 – I cry during the great ‘swan’ motif every single time I play it.
- No. 3 – Such a Haydnesque, and light piece, as Steinberg says, a “U-turn from what came before”.
- No. 7 – Who knew a C major scale could be so beautifully evocative?
As for No. 6 – It is growing on me, I’m looking forward to returning to it this season. The Oregon Symphony is performing Sibelius’ Sixth Symphony in February, with guest conductor Robert Spano (and Joshua Bell as violin soloist, playing the Bruch Concerto No. 1). We last performed this enigmatic symphony with Finnish conductor Hannu Lintu, who described it as the most classically ‘Finnish’ of the symphonies.
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You can listen to the entire series of discussions here.