Jean Sibelius (1865–1957)

The composer Jean (Johan) Sibelius is regarded as one of the great symphonists and tone poets of the 20th century.

He came from a Swedish-speaking home, but passed his matriculation examination at a Finnish-speaking school: Hämeelinna Lyceum. Following his matriculation exam, Sibelius enrolled at the Helsinki Music School, where he studied violin, theory of music and composition. Further studies followed in Berlin and Vienna under Adolf Becker and Karl Goldman, among others. In time, Sibelius' dreams of a career as a violinist faded, and he began to concentrate exclusively on composition. He also conducted, mostly his own works, in Finland and elsewhere in Europe and in America.

Sibelius began to make a name for himself in the music centers of the world from the start of the century. His tone language evoked a positive response, especially in Great-Britain and the USA. However, Sibelius was also aware of attacks aimed against his music in some Central-European countries.

Despite this, he was convinced that his orchestral works at least would be handed down for posterity. Beside the seven symphonies, the extensive and versatile output of Sibelius includes symphonic poems, a violin concerto, music for stage, choral works, songs, chamber music, music for piano etc.

In addition to Finnish conductors, others who have recorded his music include Eugene Ormandy, Herbert von Karajan, Leonard Bernstein, Lorin Maazel and Colin Davis.

(Hannu Kivilä, ArtInn; Translated by Minna Liski)