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Edited by Daniel M. Grimley
Published February 2004
294 pages 2 line diagrams 1 half-tone 57 music examples
ISBN: 0521894603


This satisfyingly varied anthology of essays on various aspects of Sibelius and his music is bound to be a mixed bag. It would be a surprise if it was anything else. That's the unique value of a collection of this type.

The roster of authors reflects a younger generation of scholars than that which harbours, for example, Robert Layton (the translator of Tawastjerna's three volume Sibelius biography). The list of names and their profiles can be read at the Cambridge University Press (CUP) website.

A serious yet largely accessible collection, it has no airs and graces and feels sufficient confidence to launch into the essays without a celebrity foreword. On the other hand one of its strengths is the two interviews with conductors Colin Davis and Osmo Vänskä caught in stimulating conversation with editor David Grimley.

There is a good chapter studying a selection of the Sibelius songs and their erotic reference. This is by Jeffrey Kallberg. This makes an ideal supplement to the recent Decca reissue of the Tom Krause/Söderström 4 CD complete songs.

Elsewhere the insights also tumble out in profusion. Bengt de Torne's book on Sibelius was detested by the composer because it made claims including that de Torne was a pupil. In fact Sibelius had no formal pupils. Those who worked with him found him completely unwilling to give detailed tuition and more inclined to range freely over general cultural matters.

Many of us knew already of the links between Granville Bantock and Sibelius - the latter dedicated his Third Symphony to the former. How many knew of Wilhelm Kempff's long friendship with Sibelius? Kempff visited the composer and also played a number of his much execrated piano solo works. Speaking of which, Veijo Murtomäki's chapter on ‘Sibelius and the Miniature’ may well have us reconsidering the sled-loads of piano solos which poured from his pen.

The fascinating genesis of the Violin Concerto is dissected again - this time by Jukka Tiilikainen. Again this is worth reading with the Kavakos Bis CD at hand; this includes both versions of the Concerto. The stringing along of Willy Burmester as a soloist makes painful reading although, as Tiilikainen points out, the Concerto's technical demands would have been more securely handled by Karel Haliř.

Just as fascinating as the links Sibelius had with England are those he had with Germany. This was at a time (1920s-1940s) when nationalism had acquired an evil resonance. Intriguingly Sibelius's music was the most frequently performed of all non-Germans in Germany during the Hitler years. Tomi Makela's chapter shows how the canny Sibelius avoided paying too close a court to Hitler and his princelings. Interestingly none of his works carry direct subject matter or dedications to the Nazi cause. This was despite Sibelius's nationalistic support for the White movement in Finland (itself supported by Germany).

Negatives are few. Certainly the positives include the chapters on 'Sibelius and his Successors' and 'Sibelius and contemporary music'. These should stimulate exploration beyond Sibelius's works. I for one now want to hear the symphonies of Alain Banquart and the works of Pascal Dusapin. Quite when I will get that chance Lord only knows.

Overall this is an enjoyable read. A handful of chapters are musicologically technical and were hard going. Arnold Whittall's clogged and lumberingly epic sentences are an obstacle to his valuable insights. Meaty paragraphs comprising just two sentences are not unusual in Mr Whittall’s section.

Ilkka Oramo's piece on ‘Sibelius and his Successors’ adopts clear stances with which I would not always agree. So far as Uuno Klami is concerned his music does have a Sibelian accent; listen to the Cheremissian Fantasy for cello and orchestra as well as to the wonderful Kalevala Suite. You get the impression from this book that Madetoja's Third Symphony is stronger than the Second. In fact the Second is a magical work with captivatingly beautiful and dramatic inspiration. The Third, for all its Gallic slender virtues, is too poised and dry to hold the attention. Try hearing the Second on Warner Apex 0927 43074 - Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Paavo Rautio.

On the demerit side the very brief study of ‘Sibelius on Record’ smacks of tokenism. How could it be otherwise at just ten pages? Sibelius's renaissance from the 1960s onwards has depended on recordings. When did you last hear the Third Symphony live or The Oceanides or Nightride and Sunrise or Luonnotar? The book would have been even an more compelling purchase if better justice had been done.

Biographical context and signposts are given by the book’s compact chronology. A copy of this, together with some excerpts from the book, can be examined using the links at the end of this review.

I have not seen Glenda Dawn Goss's 'The Sibelius Companion' (Greenwood Press, 1997) which is the main 'competition' to this CUP book. However she is represented here by an excellent account of Vienna and the genesis of the Kullervo symphony. Going by the titles of the chapters in her much more expensive book those essays complement the CUP collection.

The book is kitted out with a good index.

This is also an inexpensive item among shelves weighed down with volumes the price of which restricts sales to the well-off enthusiast or the library. A pleasingly mixed bag then - drawn from contemporary Sibelian scholarship. Plenty to inform, enthuse and stimulate. Well structured and user-friendly.

Rob Barnett

Detailed List Of Contents

Notes on contributors [page vii]
Acknowledgements [ix]
Chronology of Sibelius's life and career [x]
Introduction Daniel M. Grimley [1]
Part I: Forging a voice: perspectives on Sibelius's biography

1 The national composer and the idea of Finnishness: Sibelius and the formation of Finnish musical style Matti Huttunen [7]
2 Vienna and the genesis of Kullervo: 'Durchführung zum Teufel!' Glenda Dawn Goss [22]
Part II: Musical works

3 Pastoral idylls, erotic anxieties and heroic subjectivities in Sibelius's Lemminkäinen and the Maidens of the Island and first two symphonies Stephen Downes [35]
4 The later symphonies Arnold Whittall [49]
5 The genesis of the Violin Concerto Jukka Tiilikainen [66]
6 Finlandia awakens James Hepokoski [81]
7 The tone poems: genre, landscape and structural perspective Daniel M. Grimley [95]
8 Finnish modern: love, sex and style in Sibelius's songs Jeffrey Kallberg [117]
9 Sibelius and the miniature Veijo Murtomäki [137]
Part III: Influence and reception

10 Sub umbra Sibelii: Sibelius and his successors Ilkka Oramo [157]
11 Sibelius and Germany: Wahrhaftigkeit beyond Allnatur Tomi Mäkelä [169]
12 Sibelius in Britain Peter Franklin [182]
13 Sibelius and contemporary music Julian Anderson [196]
Part IV: Interpreting Sibelius

14 Different kinds of fidelity: interpreting Sibelius on record Bethany Lowe [219]
15 Performing Sibelius Sir Colin Davis and Osmo Vänskä in conversation with Daniel M. Grimley [229]
Notes [243]
Select bibliography [263]
Index of names and works [266]
You can read the introduction and one of the essays at
The book index is at
The book’s chronology is at the end of this page
THIS CUP BOOK CAN BE COMPARED with the Greenwood Press Sibelius Companion edited by Glenda Dawn Goss and published in 1997 - 468pp

Full details at:-
Contents list:-
Table of Contents:
Editorial Note
From Youth to Maturity
Jean Sibelius and Vienna by Peter Revers
Interlude I: Sibelius in the 1890s
Sibelius, The Kalevala, and Karelianism by William A. Wilson
Sibelius and Wagner by Eero Tarasti
Sibelius's Second Symphony and the Legacy of Symphonic Lyricism by David Haas
Interlude II: 1900-1914
The Violin Concerto by Erkki Salmenhaara
The Essence of Sibelius: Creation Myths and Rotational Cycles in Luonnotar by James Hepokoski
"Symphonic Fantasy": A Synthesis of Symphonic Thinking in Sibelius's Seventh Symphony and Tapiola by Veijo Murtomäki
"A Bridge to the World"
Interlude III: Sibelius, Words, and Music
Songs by Valeria Sirén
Choral Works by Daniel Politoske
Observations on Music and Musicians by Jean Sibelius
The Compositional Process
Sibelius's Seventh Symphony: An Introduction to the Manuscript and Printed Sources by Kari Kilpeläinen
Sibelius in the Concert Hall and in Scholarship
Interlude IV: A Composer and His Reputation
Sibelius and England by Laura Gray
Sibelius Research by Fabian Dahlström
Chronological List of Works
Register of Names
Index of Works
General Index

Return to Index

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