Jean SibeliusOn an ‘A-to-Z’ edition of State of the Arts, it’s Sibelius and his Symphony of Swans and Silence… The Finnish composer (and national hero) Jean Sibelius was commissioned to write a symphony to commemorate his own 50th birthday – he ended up revising it several times before it came to the version we know today, but one of its most memorable themes came to him on a morning in April when he looked to the skies.

We know which morning, because he wrote in his diary (along with the theme that recurs in the horns throughout the final movement): “Today at ten to eleven, I saw 16 swans. One of my greatest experiences! Lord God, that beauty. They circled over me for a long time. Disappeared into the solar haze like a gleaming, silver ribbon.” That was April 21st, 1915. A few days later, he would write: “The swans are always in my thoughts and give splendor to life… Strange to learn that nothing in the whole world affects me – nothing in art, literature, or music – in the same way as do these swans and canes and wild geese.”

The final movement in this performance starts at 22:20…

 

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