Sibelius 5’s Evaporating Tonal Center

In Monday’s post, commemorating the 150th anniversary of Jean Sibelius’ birth, we listened to Leonard Bernstein’s live concert performance of Sibelius’ Fifth Symphony with the Vienna Philharmonic. Returning to this music, I was reminded of that chilling moment in the first movement when the tonal center completely evaporates. Virtually all music from J.S. Bach through Late Romanticism was tonal, built on relationships between a tonic (the key’s home base) and dominant. We …

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Sibelius at 150

Tomorrow marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of Jean Sibelius. Commemorative events are under way this week, from Sibelius’ native Finland to Minnesota. Appropriately, the 11th International Jean Sibelius Violin Competition just wrapped up in Helsinki. The competition, open to violinists under the age of 30, has been held every five years since 1965. Listen to this year’s first prize winner, American violinist Christel Lee, here. Recently, here at the Listeners’ Club, we’ve …

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Tundra

In 1990 the Helsinki Philharmonic commemorated the 125th anniversary of Jean Sibelius’ birth with the commission of Tundra, a short but powerful orchestral piece by Danish composer Poul Ruders (b. 1949). Wednesday’s post featured the dark, brooding sounds of Sibelius’ Fifth Symphony. You’ll hear a similar icy, Scandinavian sonic landscape in Ruders’ Tundra. There are also direct echoes of Sibelius. Take a moment and listen to the Sibelius Fifth’s singular climactic event, the distinctive “Swan Theme” …

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