Sub umbra Sibelii: Sibelius and his successors

It is difficult to establish who was the first to mention ‘Sibelius’s shadow.’ The idea pops up in the 1920s at the latest. In an essay on ‘the youngest Finnish music’ from 1928, the composer Ernest Pingoud (1887–1942) refers to the ‘reappraisal of certain values’ during the First World War, notably to the ‘bankruptcy of Romanticism’ in the field of aesthetics.

Sibelius’s output, cherished and tended by reverent hands, did not lose a tad of its value; on the contrary, it secured an officially-sanctioned eternal value and still flourishes in all its beauty. A new phenomenon, nevertheless, showed up: the mountainous overall shape of Sibelius’s output came to be seen in a new light, or perhaps from a different perspective, and where its shadow had once fallen, new curious searchlights begun to play their games. The consequences did not fail to reveal themselves, and new life emerged: new Finnish music, more or less independent from Sibelius, was born.[1]

Pingoud was of Russian origin and had immigrated to Finland from St Petersburg in 1918, in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution. Although well integrated into the society of his patrie choisie ten years later, he remained an outsider in one important respect. Nationalism, the fundamental generating force in Finnish culture at the turn of the century, was none of his concern. He sympathised with it from the outside, as revealed in an article on Sibelius from 1909 in which he described the tone poem Finlandia, ‘the most national of Sibelius’s works,’ as ‘radiating a deep sorrow for his enslaved fatherland.’[2] But in principle he was against national art since, according to him, it belonged to a nation’s infancy and, in fact, represented only the infancy of art. In an essay on national music from 1922 he used the word Heimatkunst—first applied to Sibelius’s music by the German music historian Walter Niemann in 1906[3]—to denote an art for which it is enough simply to satisfy the needs of the artist’s own nation; this kind of art has a strange attraction to others as well, but its appeal is superficial, as is its impact on the recipient.[4]

The composers of the new Finnish music that Pingoud had in mind were Yrjö Kilpinen (1892–1959) on the one hand, and Väinö Raitio (1891–1945), Aarre Merikanto (1893–1958) and Uuno Klami (1900–1961) on the other. Kilpinen was a composer of lieder, of which he wrote more than seven hundred. He has been characterised as a Finnish Hugo Wolf, and, according to Seppo Nummi (1932–1981), a composer of lieder himself, he is the most coherent neo-classicist in Finnish music.[5] Raitio, Merikanto and Klami, along with Pingoud, were the main representatives of what is known as the ‘1920s modernism’ in the history of Finnish music; and, as Pingoud remarked, they tended to be regarded as a group.

Who, then, were the composers overshadowed by Sibelius? Pingoud does not mention any names. Obviously he had the whole generation between Sibelius and the modernists in mind, composers who actually formed the core of national Romanticism in Finnish music: Oskar Merikanto (1868–1924), Armas Järnefelt (1869–1958), Erkki Melartin (1875–1937), Selim Palmgren (1878–1951), Toivo Kuula (1883–1918), and Leevi Madetoja (1887-1947), to mention the most important of them. Robert Kajanus (1856–1933), whose symphonic poem Aino (1885) opened Sibelius’s eyes for the musical possibilities of the Finnish national epic Kalevala, practically abandoned the composition of large-scale orchestral works because of Sibelius and became the most ardent protagonist of his compatriot’s music, instead.[6]

Sibelius’s fame—and his shadow—began to grow in 1892 with the first performance of the Kullervo Symphony. In this work he offered a solution to a problem that had occupied Finnish artists, painters in the first place, for some time: how to create a work of art, which is at the same time both national and universal?[7] The national element of the Kullervo Symphony consists in the Kullervo legend of the Kalevala, and in the world of the ancient modal runes originally associated with its poetry. But the Kullervo legend also has something of the universality of a myth. A tragic hero, like King Oedipus, Kullervo commits an act of violence against a person whose identity as a close relative only becomes uncovered afterwards, and then punishes himself by taking his own life. Musically, as well as dramatically, the particular is combined with the general: the modal world of runes with tonal harmony, and the Kalevala world of mythical structures with forms and genres characteristics of western musical tradition, such as the symphony, the symphonic poem, the oratorio and the operatic scena. The Kullervo Symphony is a rough work, far from the technical perfection of, say, the contemporary tone poems of Richard Strauss, but its sheer originality and the vigour of the artistic vision that lies behind it were something unheard-of in Finnish music at the time of its creation.

The Kullervo Symphony was followed by a series of symphonic poems, notably the Lemminkäinen Legends, in which Sibelius penetrated even deeper into the soul of the Kalevala by means of purely instrumental music. Selim Palmgren, at that time a student of the Helsinki Music Institute, describes the impact of these works upon his contemporaries in his autobiography:

Those who had an opportunity to listen and to see Jean Sibelius himself conduct his Kalevala-poems at that time—in the years 1895–99—will most certainly never forget these experiences. ‘My dear Palmgren,’ I said to myself, ‘you have nothing to do on the field of Kalevala, just let Sibba [Sibelius] take care of it and try to find out something else!’ And I tried.[8]

This overwhelming impact, the intensity of which a modern listener can hardly imagine, seems to have had two different causes. This music was modern, not only in the context of the musical life of a small country on the fringes of Europe, but also in its wider international context. It was different from, but by no means less modern than, Strauss’s Don Juan, Mahler’s First Symphony or Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune. The other factor was that it was received as something belonging to the Finnish people, because its composer was Finnish and because its inspiration came from Finnish poetry and Finnish nature. Sibelius’s music thus offered his compatriots an object of self-identification, which contributed in their minds to the definition of ‘who we are.’ The delight was nor quite unanimous, however, since by choosing a text in Finnish (instead of Swedish) Sibelius took sides with the ‘Young Finns,’ who wanted to strengthen the position of the Finnish language in a society in which the language of the upper class was still Swedish. Supporters of the ‘Swedish Party,’ including his former teacher Martin Wegelius, strongly disapproved of his choice.[9]

From 1809 Finland’s national status was a form of semi-independence. Having been a Swedish province for centuries, it had become an autonomous grand duchy of the Russian Empire with most of the institutions of an independent state, such as its own legislature, army, customs, money, mail and national symbols (coat of arms, flag, national anthem). The supreme power, however, was in St Petersburg, and towards the end of the century the Russian authorities began to tighten their grip on the annoyingly separatist grand duchy. Their aim was to remove some of Finland’s constitutional privileges, granted during the reign of Tsar Alexander II (1855–81), and to harmonise its legislation with the rest of the country; in brief, to make Finland a Russian province like many others. This policy culminated in the so-called February Manifesto of 1899.[10] There was a strong reaction in Finland, in which both painters and musicians protested against this perceived act of despotism and injustice. Sibelius wrote his Atenarnes sång (Song of the Athenians) and performed it in a concert of his works on 26 April 1899. The reception of this simple march song, a setting of Viktor Rydberg’s adaptation of the battle song of Tyrtaeus, was so enthusiastic that it overshadowed the premiere of the First Symphony, given in the same concert.

If the Kullervo Symphony and the Lemminkäinen Legends had contributed to the development of national identity among the Finnish people by making its Finno-Ugrian past newly accessible, Atenarnes sång made Sibelius a hero, who stood up for the nation in time of need. During the ‘frost years’ or ‘time of oppression,’ as this period (from 1899 to 1905) in Finnish history is known, Sibelius wrote a considerable number of works with a more or less overt political message, including the cantatas Islossningen i Uleå älf (The Breaking of the Ice on the Oulu River, to a libretto by Z. Topelius, 1899) and Tulen synty (The Origin of Fire, Kalevala, 1902), the orchestral work Suomi herää (Finland awakens), the revised version of which is known as Finlandia (1899/1900), and several songs for male voice choir, notably Isänmaalle (To the Fatherland, Paavo Cajander, 1900), Veljeni vierailla mailla (My Brothers in Foreign Lands, Juhani Aho, 1904) and Har du mod? (Have You Courage? J.J. Wecksell, 1904). Some contemporaries even regarded works like the First and Second Symphonies (1899, 1902) as having a hidden patriotic programme, although it is likely that such a programme was read into them by people with more imagination and nationalistic fervour than critical judgement. There is nothing to indicate that their heroic topoi should refer to local politics rather than the vocabulary of the generic traditions that lie behind them. The patriotic interpretation of these two works, nevertheless, does continue to find support among more recent scholarship.[11]

It is clear, though, that by writing patriotic pieces that could be interpreted as subversive, Sibelius showed considerable civilian courage. Many Finnish intellectuals were expelled to Siberia or forced to flee to Sweden due to their political opinions (this is what the song My Brothers in Foreign Lands is all about), and Sibelius could easily have been one of them. He had now become, before his fortieth birthday, one of the nation’s spiritual leaders. In his obituary of Sibelius in a Helsinki newspaper, the composer Joonas Kokkonen (1921–96) emphasised the uniqueness of his feat: ‘Jean Sibelius’s position in the thoughts of the Finnish people has been very special for decades already: there are probably only a few even remotely similar cases in the history of western culture, in which an artist becomes almost a legend during his lifetime and is so unequivocally counted among the nation’s great men.’[12] A modern commentator has referred to Sibelius as a ‘cultural icon,’ by which he means ‘persons or phenomena that have attained the status of “concepts” inasmuch as they have assumed a permanent place and significance in people’s everyday thinking.’[13]

The Romantics

How, then, did the contemporaries cope with the living legend? Palmgren’s ‘try to find out something else’ was a typical reaction. Palmgren turned to the piano, took Schumann and Chopin as starting points and proved rather successful as a composer of Romantic character pieces and piano concertos, reminiscent of Grieg and Rakhmaninov. Järnefelt, Sibelius’s brother-in-law, wrote a couple of symphonic works in the 1890s (Korsholma, 1894; Symphonic Fantasy, 1895), but then left this field to Sibelius and found a more suitable idiom in lyric songs and instrumental pieces, of which the atmospheric Berceuse (1904) is the most well-known. Oskar Merikanto became a songwriter and his music, popular in style and manner, spread in much wider circles on home ground than Sibelius’s, which was often harsh, gloomy and difficult to understand. So it seems that there was plenty of room in the Finnish musical life for composers who did not try to step on Sibelius’s toes; and nothing, except prejudice against the unfamiliar, would have prevented their success abroad, had they been of sufficient interest. Palmgren actually made some progress both in Germany and especially in the USA, where he became professor of composition at the Eastman School of Music in the early 1920s. Järnefelt’s and Merikanto’s music was of a more Heimatkunst character that did not travel well outside its home country.

Another way to cope with Sibelius was to try to learn from him. Sibelius’s most talented students were Kuula and Madetoja, whom he agreed to see once in a while in 1908–9. They soon realised that they could not expect composition lessons from him in the ordinary sense. He might take a casual look at their exercises and scores and make a few general remarks of the type ‘no futile notes,’ but the rest of the lesson consisted of a spirited discussion of musical and aesthetic issues.[14] In autumn 1909, Kuula left for Paris to continue his studies with Marcel Labey. When Madetoja started to plan his continuing studies abroad in January 1910, he asked Kuula for advice. ‘Sibelius has been my teacher. From your own experience you know that his guidance is not very detailed.’ Kuula answered that he had not learnt anything in Finland, except from Järnefelt, and advised his younger colleague to head for Paris as well.[15]

If Kuula and Madetoja did not learn much by way of craftsmanship from lessons with Sibelius, they certainly learnt from his scores. Surface-level stylistic influences are not very obvious, nor could they be, because of the utmost simplicity of the means that define Sibelius’s style. Take, for example, the C minor theme at Fig. H in En saga (1892/1902), which—instead of using alternating tonic and dominant chords—is sustained by the mediant pedal note, E flat. The composer Einar Englund (1916–99) describes the effect as follows: ‘Suddenly a miracle happens. Poetry enters into the music, which, owing to this simple idea, assumes a melancholy tone.’[16] A large part of Sibelius’s style, to put it broadly, is based on conventional elements that behave in an unconventional way, and this makes it impossible to imitate him without immediately sounding like him. His fellow composers in Finland were, of course, aware of this, and it seems as if they took special care to avoid being trapped by the smallest amount ‘Sibelianism.’

Sibelius may have influenced them by his example, instead. His work opened up new paths in the virgin lands of modern solo song and choral music to Swedish and Finnish texts. The songs and choral works (initially for male voice choir) of Järnefelt, Kuula, Madetoja, Palmgren and others would be hard to imagine without the model of Sibelius’s early Runeberg, Josephson, Wecksell, Fröding and Rydberg settings (opp. 13, 17, 36, 37 and 38) and his radical choral pieces from the 1890s (op. 18 and others without opus number), which broke decisively away from the petty-bourgeois Biedermeier style of the previous decades. The extensive repertory of vocal music that flourished in his footsteps continued to construct the Finnish national self-image and, at the same time, reflected the characteristics of those parts of the country from which the composers came. It was principally music for local use, in the first place, and most of it was of somewhat limited appeal because it required an understanding both of the poetry, and its local context; but it was nevertheless an essential part of Finnish national Romanticism and contributed to the prevailing spirit of national determination.

Some of Sibelius’s songs and choral works may be unique works of art. But so are some songs and choral works of Kuula and Madetoja. When it comes to this repertory, there is no aesthetic or artistic reason why their works should have fallen under Sibelius’s shadow. There are true masterpieces among them. Nevertheless, if Sibelius’s songs and choral works are considered to be of greater interest, it is only because they are works of a composer who was undoubtedly superior to any of his Finnish contemporaries in another repertory, usually regarded as a higher level of achievement: symphonic orchestral music. Even the minor works of a major composer were of more interest to the public than the major works of a lesser composer and, in this sense, the origin of Sibelius’s shadow actually lies in patterns of popular reception rather than in the intrinsic value, beauty or importance of the works of art themselves.

There is also another reason why the vocal music of Sibelius’s contemporaries did not (and does not) suffer from his shadow. In the early twentieth century there was an enduring social need for new vocal repertory. Choral singing had become a popular movement and a vehicle for nationalist ideas in the latter part of the nineteenth century, but the number of choirs only increased after the turn of the century when mixed choirs became as fashionable as the traditional male-voice choirs. No single composer could possibly satisfy the demand for new pieces, and everything that was written came to be performed. Solo songs were required just as urgently. In Finland there were a number of internationally renowned singers (Aino Ackté, Ida Ekman, and others), who constantly needed new music for their recitals. An additional explanation for the increasing interest in vocal repertory was the simultaneous emancipation of poetry written in Finnish, which had only recently become a true literary language.

When speaking of the ‘mountainous shape of Sibelius’s output’ Pingoud probably had his symphonic music in mind, since the hard core of his output undoubtedly consists of his seven symphonies, thirteen symphonic or tone poems, and the Violin Concerto. As fine as some of his other works are, they are hardly mentioned in general discussions of the late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century music.[17] In view of this orchestral repertory, contemporary Finnish composers were, indeed, doomed to a gloomy existence in Sibelius’s shadow. The most productive among them was Erkki Melartin, who wrote six symphonies (1902, 1904, 1907, 1912/16, 1916, 1924), a couple of symphonic poems, and a violin concerto (1913/30). The symphonies, although competently written, could not secure a place in the repertory, not even in Finland, because of their eclecticism. The Violin Concerto has recently been dug out of oblivion and recorded, but—despite its merits as a virtuoso showpiece—it has failed to establish a permanent place in the repertory.

More personal are Madetoja’s three symphonies (1916, 1918, 1926). In the first two, contemporary critics discerned some formal and structural features that can be compared with Sibelius, if not necessarily explained as his ‘influence.’[18] Such observations are of interest since they show that no symphonic music written by Sibelius’s younger colleagues could escape comparison with his works; they had become an inevitable point of reference, in relation to which everything else was measured and evaluated. Not even modern scholars can avoid this comparison. Erkki Salmenhaara, author of Madetoja’s biography, writes:

While Madetoja’s first two symphonies are stylistically related to Sibelius’s early symphonies and suffer by comparison with them in terms of thematic originality, strangely enough the closest reference point to Madetoja’s Third Symphony is similarly Sibelius’s Third. Madetoja does not perhaps quite attain the majesty of this symphony’s first movement, but as a whole the works are fully on level pegging.[19]

The relationship between these two works, however, is not based on the stylistic similarity, but rather on the similarity of mood. Stylistically, the French connections of Madetoja’s Third are so evident that a French commentator, Henri-Claude Fantapié, has nicknamed it ‘Sinfonia Gallica.’[20] Why, then, compare it to Sibelius’s Third? The idea is that Madetoja’s Third Symphony relates to his Second the same way that Sibelius’s Third to his Second: a dramatic, large-scale symphony full of conflict is followed by another which is serene and harmonious in style and expression. When Madetoja’s Third was performed in Stockholm in 1946, one of the leading daily newspapers reckoned him among the Finnish composers unjustly fallen ‘sub umbra Sibelii.’[21] Perhaps his style, as Salmenhaara supposes, is still so close to Sibelius’s landscape that it is difficult to perceive its individual merits.[22] Madetoja’s musical voice only comes into its own in a field practically untrodden by Sibelius, that of opera. As an artistic breakthrough, Madetoja’s Pohjalaisia (1923) is as significant to the Finns as Peter Grimes to the British.

A general reason for the virtual disappearance of Melartin’s and Madetoja’s symphonies (Kuula did not write any) was that the historical life of the symphony as a genre had, for the time being, arrived at its final phase. Mahler was its last major representative in Central Europe, Nielsen and Sibelius in the ‘Nordic Countries.’ The First World War had put an end to national Romanticism, or, at least, to its soft, idealised aspects, and, as a consequence, music that still cherished its values appeared anachronistic.

The Modernists

Pingoud and the creators of the ‘new Finnish music, more or less independent from Sibelius’ still wrote ‘symphonies,’ but these works often attest to the decline of the genre. Pingoud’s First Symphony (1920) is in one movement, like Sibelius’s Seventh (1924), and has the character and disposition of a symphonic fantasy since it does not obey any conventions of the genre. The two others (1924, 1927) display a more traditional appearance in their four-movement design, but they are saturated with the same whimsical spirit that characterises the composer’s symphonic poems. Merikantos’s first two symphonies (1916, 1918) and Raitio’s single one (1919) are works of young composers still in search of their own voice, whereas Klami’s two symphonies (1938, 1945) are less successful works of a mature composer. According to Kalevi Aho, co-author of Klami’s biography and a symphonist himself, the symphonic form ‘somehow seemed to shackle Klami’s creative imagination.’ The constraint at work here was probably the shadow of Sibelius, as Aho discreetly suggests.[23]

While the symphony was in decline in post-Sibelian Finland, the symphonic poem flourished in the 1920s and 1930s. The fact that Merikanto worked on a third symphony but finally decided to entitle it Fantasy (1923) is indicative of this shift of emphasis. He thus did the opposite of Sibelius, who was working on a ‘Fantasia sinfonica’ but ended up calling it ‘Symphony No. 7’. In a letter of 2 December 1922 Merikanto explained himself: ‘It was all planned out, but maybe certain forms are no longer satisfying, and hence it has no sense to call the composition a symphony.’[24] The Fantasy was the boldest music written in Finland so far. For the composer it became a personal disappointment, since it remained unperformed for almost three decades. Tauno Hannikainen and the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra gave the first performance in November 1952. The fate of his Symphonic Study (1928), an even bolder work than its predecessor, was worse still. Interviewed on the radio in 1957, Merikanto recounted:

The Symphonic Study for orchestra, composed in 1928, is my most radical work. A pretty large work! It has never been played, and hopefully it never will be played. It can never be played, in fact, because last summer I cut five or six pages from here and there out of it with scissors—since I had promised my wife that I would not burn it. I spoke of this work to Pingoud, who was the manager of the Philharmonic Orchestra at the time, and he said ‘Give it to me and I will pass it on to professor Kajanus.’ Professor Kajanus got it, invited me to see him, and said: ‘Mr Merikanto, you are so talented, but you really must retreat from this.’[25]

The work’s musical language and form, which do not obey any textbook rules, were apparently incomprehensible to Kajanus’s eyes. Fortunately, the composer Paavo Heininen, who studied with Merikanto for a while in 1958, understood them better and reconstructed the mutilated score, thus saving the Symphonic Study for posterity.[26] Worst was that Merikanto destroyed his Third Violin Concerto (1931) beyond recovery and that his masterpiece, the opera Juha (1922), only received its first performance on the radio in December 1958, a couple of months after the composer’s death, and was not staged until 1963.

The lack of understanding that greeted Merikanto’s most advanced music in the 1920s led to the tragic fact that he lost his faith in his own work and began to write in a more conventional style in the 1930s. And yet, according to Heininen, ‘what critics, conductors and the musical authorities of Merikanto’s own time condemned as extreme radicalism seems to us today merely a blend of impressionism and expressionism that never entirely severed its links with late Romanticism and folk music.’[27] The problem was that Finland’s musical climate at that time did not favour music that was too different from the familiar and the well-tried. Even though the ‘modernists’ had turned their back to national Romanticism, the ‘musical authorities’ (and the audience) had not. No fundamental change had taken place in their attitudes since before First World War, when Sibelius’s Fourth Symphony had been a daunting prospect for any audience.[28] Its performance, however, could not have been prevented, because, although incomprehensible, it was the work of a living legend. Merikanto had no such status. He tried to prove himself with works that moved decisively away from worn-out ideals of beauty, but failed to convince the ‘musical authorities’ upon whom he was ultimately dependent. The shadow, in this case, was not that of Sibelius. Rather, it was the shadow cast by a traditionally agrarian society over the evolving urban culture represented by composers like Pingoud, Raitio and Merikanto. They had grown more interested in ancient myth[29] and in symbolist or urban subjects[30] than national history and folklore, and they often expressed themselves in an ecstatic musical language more reminiscent of Skryabin than anything else.

Klami, whom Pingoud placed in the same group as Raitio and Merikanto, was a different case. Influenced by Stravinsky, Ravel and contemporary Spanish music, he distanced himself from German modernism (Strauss, Reger) and the Skryabin brand of the Russian legacy that had influenced the other members of the ‘group.’ His independence from Sibelius, as well as from Finnish national Romanticism, is shown by the fact that he could tackle subjects from the Kalevala and other Finnish literature from a new angle.[31] In The Adventures of Lemminkäinen on the Island (1935) he even has the boldness and the wit to quote the opening melodic cells from Sibelius’s Lemminkäinen’s Return. He did not face rejection by the Finnish ‘musical authorities’ or suffer uncomplimentary reviews the way Merikanto did, and his works were generally well received. In his case, Sibelius’s shadow is only apparent in the manner that it affects all Finnish composers: if Sibelius had not existed, their works would possibly have found an easier access into the programmes of Finnish orchestras.

This was Einar Englund’s point, when he took the ‘shadow of Sibelius’ as part of the title of his autobiography. The essence of his complaint reads as follows:

In his own lifetime, Sibelius had already attained a strong position in Finland’s musical life. His immense power overshadowed all the composers of that time to such an extent that the music of many of them has only experienced a late rebirth today. Who could have predicted in his wildest dreams that the shadow cast by Sibelius would extend so far, up to the present day, suffocating the music of our time as well? One only has to take a look at the symphony orchestras’ concert catalogues in order to notice how crushing the dominance of Sibelius’s work over the work of all other, still living composers remains. There is a complete consensus that no alternatives shall be accepted.[32]

Author of seven symphonies himself, Englund (1916–99) had every reason to make a plea for more variety in planning concert programmes. Similar views are addressed to the ‘musical authorities’ every now and then by other composers as well. It might not, however, be quite correct to blame the dominance of Sibelius entirely for this situation. One could perhaps speak of an excessive weight of nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century music in the orchestral repertory in general. This phenomenon, which is not unique to Finland, is connected to the increasing tendency (or necessity?) to obey market laws in cultural activities as well as in other areas of life.

In addition to the shadow cast by Sibelius’s over other composers via the decisions of administrators and concert programmers, there is also a Sibelian legacy that has a direct impact on the minds of other composers, many of whom did or do not feel overshadowed by Sibelius. I shall point out just one strain of influence that is worth mentioning, because it is different from any previous reception of his music. In an essay on the symphonies of Joonas Kokkonen, Edward Jurkowski argues that ‘Kokkonen’s significant achievement within the line of twentieth-century Finnish music is his role in extending Sibelius’s ideals of large-scale organic logic while, at the same time, avoiding folk-music influences or the “nationalistic” surfaces of Sibelius’s compositions.’[33] The observation that Kokkonen was attached to this feature in Sibelius’s symphonic thinking, which James Hepokoski calls ‘the principle of teleological genesis,’ is absolutely relevant[34] According to Hepokoski, Sibelius creates this feeling of goal-direction by ‘varied recyclings of the thematic pattern established in the piece’s first rotation’ (hence called ‘rotational form’). Kokkonen did the same thing with 12-tone rows. This goal-oriented thinking with its roots in Sibelius’s late work continues to flourish in Magnus Lindberg’s recent orchestral music, based on recycling a set of harmonies in combination with a number of ‘models,’ a model being a pattern or a situation defined in relation to several parameters. The result of this technique is, as I have pointed out in another context, ‘a sense of continuity and direction, an ultimate end, that controls a work’s development from beginning to end according to a carefully designed plan.’[35] It is instructive to compare Lindberg’s monolithic Fresco (1998) with Sibelius’s Seventh Symphony (1924) in order to recognise how far the emphasis of Sibelius’s influence has shifted from surface-level characteristics to basic structural principles.

[1] Ernest Pingoud, ’Den yngsta finska musiken’ [The youngest Finnish music, Nya Argus 18 (1928); Finnish trans. as ’Uusin suomalainen musiikki,’ in Ernest Pingoud, Taiteen edistys [Art’s Progress], ed. Kalevi Aho (Helsinki: Gaudeamus, 1995), pp. 197–199.
[2] Ernest Pingoud, ’Jean Sibelius,’ Montagsblatt der Sankt Petersburger Zeitung, 8 June 1909; Finnish trans. ibid., pp. 73–75.
[3] Walter Niemann, Die Musik Skandinaviens (Leipzig: Breitkopf & Härtel, 1906), p. 237.
[4] Ernest Pingoud, ’Kansallinen musiikki’ [National music], Ultra 3 (1922); repr. in Pingoud, Taiteen edistys, pp. 246–247.
[5] Seppo Nummi, ’Yrjö Kilpinen musiikinhistoriassa ja Suomen säveltaiteessa’ [Yrjö Kilpinen in the history of music and in the music of Finland], Suomen musiikin vuosikirja 1968–1969 [Yearbook of Finnish music], ed. I. Oramo (Helsinki: Otava, 1970), p. 11.
[6] Yrjö Suomalainen, Robert Kajanus (Helsinki: Otava, 1952), p. 11.
[7] Ilkka Oramo, ’Beyond Nationalism,’ Music and Nationalism in 20th-Century Great Britain and Finland, ed. Tomi Mäkelä (Hamburg: von Boeckel Verlag, 1997), p. 37.
[8] Selim Palmgren, Minusta tuli muusikko [I became a musician] (Porvoo–Helsinki: Werner Söderström Osakeyhtö, 1948), pp. 26–27.
[9] Erik Tawaststjerna, Sibelius. Vol. I 1865–1905, trans. Robert Layton (London: Faber, 1976), p. 103; cf. Veijo Murtomäki, ’Sibelius: Composer and Patriot,’ Sibelius Forum II. Proceedings from the Third International Jean Sibelius Conference Helsinki December 7–10, 2000, ed. Matti Huttunen, Kari Kilpeläinen and Veijo Murtomäki (Helsinki: Sibelius Academy. Department of Composition and Music Theory, 2003), p. 330.
[10] See e.g. G.C. Schoolfield, Helsinki of the Czars (Columbia, SC: Camden House, 1996), pp. 205–214.
[11] Cf. James Hepokoski, ’Sibelius, Jean,’ The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edn, vol. XXIII (London: Macmillan, 2001), pp. 328–329, and Murtomäki, ’Sibelius: Composer and Patriot.’
[12] Joonas Kokkonen, ’Mestarin tie’ [The path of the master], Ilta-Sanomat, 21 (September 1957).
[13] Eero Tarasti, ’An esay in post-colonial analysis: Sibelius as an icon of the Finns and others,’ in Timothy L. Jackson and V. Murtomäki (eds.), Sibelius Studies (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), p. 4.
[14] Leevi Madetoja, ’Jean Sibelius opettajana’ [Jean Sibelius as a teacher), Aulos (1925). Quoted in Erkki Salmenhaara, Leevi Madetoja (Helsinki: Tammi, 1987), p. 43.
[15] Ibid., p. 60. A third composer who described himself as Sibelius’s student was Bengt de Törne, whose Sibelius — A Close-up (London: Faber, 1937) provoked Theodor W. Adorno to write his ’Glosse über Sibelius,’ originally published in Zeitschrift für Sozialforschung 7 (1938), pp. 460–463.
[16] Einar Englund, Sibeliuksen varjossa. Katkelmia säveltäjän elämästä [In the Shadow of Sibelius. Fragments from a Life of a Composer] (Helsinki: Otava, 1997), pp. 337–338.
[17] See e.g. Carl Dahlhaus, Nineteenth-Century Music, trans. J. Bradford Robinson (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1989), and Arnold Whittall, Musical Composition in the Twentieth Century (London: Oxford University Press, 1999).
[18] Salmenhaara, Leevi Madetoja, pp. 148–150, 179–182.
[19] Ibid., p. 230.
[20] Ibid.
[21] Ibid., p. 340.
[22] Ibid., p. 352.
[23] Kalevi Aho and Marjo Valkonen, Uuno Klami. Elämä ja teokset [Uuno Klami. Life and Works] (Helsinki: Werner Söderström Osakeyhtiö, 2000), p. 215.
[24] Seppo Heikinheimo, Aarre Merikanto. Säveltäjänkohtalo itsenäisessä Suomessa [Aarre Merikanto. Fate of a Composer in Independent Finland] (Porvoo–Helsinki–Juva: Werner Söderström Osakeyhtiö, 1985), p. 266.
[25] Ibid., p. 262.
[26] Ibid., p. 590.
[27] Paavo Heininen,’”Blow it out and I will light it again.” Aarre Merikanto’s mutilated Study and its reconstruction,’ Finnish Music Quarterly 1 (1986), pp. 60–67.
[28] Erik Tawaststjerna, Sibelius. Vol. II, 1904–1914, trans. Robert Layton (London: Faber, 1986), pp. 169–170.
[29] For example, Raitio’s Antigone (1922), Merikanto’s Ekho (1922), and Pan (1924).
[30] Such as Pingoud’s Les dernières aventures de Pierrot (1916) and La gace d’une grande ville (1937).
[31] For example, the Kalevala Suite (1933/1943) and The Cobblers on the Heath overture after Aleksis Kivi (1936).
[32] Englund, Sibeliuksen varjossa, p. 338.
[33] Edward Jurkowski, ’The Symphonies of Joonas Kokkonen,’ Tempo 208 (1999), p. 19.
[34] Hepokoski, ’Sibelius, Jean,’ The New Grove, p. 334.
[35] Ilkka Oramo, ’Lindberg, Magnus,’ The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edn, vol. XIV (London: Macmillan, 2001), p. 711.

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(The Cambridge Companion to Sibelius, ed. Daniel M. Grimley, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004, pp. 157–168. Updated in September 2017.)

About Ilkka Oramo

Professor of Music Theory, emeritus
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