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Sibelius and His Love of Northern Landscape

Posted December. 10, 2002 22:47,   


Three years ago when the world was about to enter a new millennium, an article in a Japanese music magazine caught my eyes. It was asking `who would be the most loved classic composer in the new century?’, suggesting that environment-friendly music will likely be loved by people as the world turns more attention to the ecological system.

The article picked Debussy who wrote `the Sea` and `Images.` I agreed with the main theme of the article, but was thinking about a different name. It was Jean Sibelius, a contemporary of the French-born Debussy who lived in the northern land of Finland. And I smell him in the New Age music, a new genre catching on fast today.

Wonder whether musicians today were affected by his music or just happen to pursue the same spirit of music. Sibelius conveys the images of Northern Europe – extensive forests, shade of dew-laden woods, brooks and footsteps of deer. It’s like `the New Age from 90 years ago` to me.

And his environment-friendliness prevails throughout Symphony No. 3 and No. 6, considered relatively unpopular pieces among his 7 symphony works. Wooden pipes like a flute create folk tunes in the second movement of Symphony No. 3. Listening to the sound, it reminds me of `the Land of Fog` a poem written by Ingeborg Bahmann, `My lover in winter times/ …with animals in the woods…`

The first movement of Symphony No.6 conveys the mysterious feelings of the nature with soft and gentle sound of strings, rippling tunes of wooden pipes, quivering of the harp and quite and heavy sound of the timpani.

During the `old good days of LP music,` the collection of Sibelius’ Symphonies, played by Halle Orchestra and conducted by John Barbiroli, was one of the best works. Symphony No.1 and No.2 send out roaring waves under the dynamic lead by Barbiroli, but No. 6 sounds somewhat slowing down.

For the smaller-scale No. 3 and No.6, I would like to recommend the digital disc played by Phil Harmonic Orchestra and conducted by Bladimir Asikenaji. Subtle sound of wooden pipes sound heavenly.

Yoon-Jong Yoo gustav@donga.com