Friday, 29 January 2010

BBC4's programme about Sibelius

Earlier tonight I saw the second of two programmes on BBC4 about the Finnish composer Sibelius, entitled Jean Sibelius: Maturity and Silence. Two things you don't associate with me, incidentally!

The programme dealt with the later symphonies. The music was haunting. I knew the 5th Symphony quite well. Clearly I needed to hear the 6th and 7th.

I rate Sibelius very highly. There is a personal connection, in that in the last months before my marriage broke up, my wife was introduced to Sibelius's 1st Symphony and played it often at home while thoughtfully drinking her dry martini. I came to associate it with the stress and turmoil of a marriage in deep trouble, and there were many points in the music where it surged in a way that suggested rising arguments and their exhausting fallout. And yet this was extraordinary music, quite new to me, and despite its negative associations, I liked the 1st Symphony and explored some of the others, notably the 2nd and 5th. Sibelius evoked the Northern European lakes and forests with his strings, and his loud brass passages were an heroic call to Finnish national pride. Later I discovered his violin concerto, and through it Mendelssohn's, then Bruch's, then Tchaikovski's, and so on.

I'm afraid I can't claim to be musical. I do like stirring music, however. But then so did Hitler. (Not a flippant remark - see for instance the article at


  1. I'm a great Sibelius fan too, I hope that the programmes find their way to French TV soon.

    I've got some Swedish music for you:

  2. I enjoyed the Fleet Foxes! Thank you.


  3. I like Sibelius too. I first became aware of Sibelius, while reading Jan Morris's book, Conundrum, back in the early eighties. As you probably know, Jan Morris, CBE, began her tranisition from James to Jan in 1964, culminating with her surgery in Morocco in 1972. I wonder, does Sibelius hold some sort of special fascination with transsexuals, or is this just an odd coincidence? I think that maybe, we just like good music!

    Melissa XX

  4. I'm in California. Did you record the Sibelius program on your TV? If so, can we make an arrangment for me to obtain a copy? Many thanks.


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