Finally came the music for “The Tempest,” commissioned by the Danish Royal Theatre, in 1925. Perhaps Sibelius felt some conscious or unconscious identification with the figure of Prospero, who, at the end of the play, decides to set aside his magic powers and resume a semblance of normal life:
But this rough magic I here abjure. And when I have required Some heavenly music—which even now I do— To work mine end upon their senses that This airy charm is for, I’ll break my staff, Bury it certain fathoms in the earth, And deeper than did ever plummet sound I’ll drown my book.
Whatever became of Jean Sibelius? For the first half of the 20th century, the square-headed Finn was the totemic symbol of a heroic nation and the most admired living symphonist.
His second symphony was performed more often than all of Gustav Mahler's put together. The world's top conductors trekked to Helsinki to bend their knees and inquire after his long- awaited eighth symphony. The British composer Ralph Vaughan Williams said that all modern music should be ``like Sibelius.''
Today, half a century after his death, the commemoration is being marked by virtual silence. Apart from an October symphonic cycle planned in Los Angeles and London by Esa-Pekka Salonen and another in Birmingham, England, by fellow Finn Sakari Oramo, few Sibelius retrospectives have been announced beyond the Baltic. (The Lahti Symphony Orchestra's Sibelius Festival is in September.) Boston, where Serge Koussevitzky made Sibelius a citizen of Symphony Hall, is mysteriously muted, as is Berlin, where Herbert von Karajan cultivated a distinctive Sibelius style. New York -- with Lorin Maazel, a noted Sibelian, at the helm -- will hear only the violin concerto.
A profession that celebrated Mozart's 250th anniversary last year with grotesque overkill has downplayed the Sibelius jubilee to the point of near-oblivion. If only as a matter of natural justice, we ought to be hearing more Sibelius this year.
Please, yes. Please. More Sibelius. Feed more Sibelius in Opera Chic's hungry maw.
Opera Chic's reader and commenter, the wonderful young Milanese maestro Francesco Maria Colombo, has conducted less than two years ago a heartbreakingly delicate Sibelius 7 at Milan's Auditorium Verdi with Orchestra Verdi, and we have been horrified to learn that it was the first time -- I mean, dude, the first time evar -- that the immortal work had been performed in the city of la Scala.
It's just amazing how a giant can fall out of fashion for silly reasons. Every once in a while a lazy record company cranks out a Sibelius cd with the unavoidable horrible cover art with snowy panorama, or icebergs (waiting for the Polar bears cover anytime soon!), and then nothing. He's reduced to a curiosity.
Opera Chic loves Lenny's Sibelius, and Karajan, of course, and the Jarvis deserve to be listened to carefully, too.
But the Sibelius that makes her dream is always the one conducted by the glorious John Barbirolli, another underrated giant. Ignore the stupid frozen cover art: the box set contains highly flammable material.
And if the pros would rather play the same trite material, safer of course, let us hear it from the kids. Maybe they kinda suXXor, but they're playing Sibelius with the awe he deserves and -- dare we say it? -- with love.