Saturday, June 11, 2005

Sibelius and Nature

While growing up I sort of OD'd on Sibelius. Being this country's hero, his music was played constantly, until he fell out of fashion soon after his death in '56, the same day Norway lost their king. It took me years to relearn to appreciate it again. Spending time here this summer, after a couple years absence, in the middle of this splendid and untouched nature, has renewed my appreciation for this master's music. When the only sounds audible are birds singing, the waves of the lake reaching the beach, and the wind whispering in the tree tops, I do hear the music of Sibelius in my head, whether I want it ot not. All the sounds of the nature are there, as are the colors: pale blue, white or grey skies and their reflection on the water; the incredible green of the trees and plants; brown or white tree trunks; and all the splendid colors represented in flowers. I don't know of any composer, who has been able to notate this incredible symphony of nature quite this masterfully. It is not just nature, it the unique nature of this unique country. He was quite a man, always living beyond his means, which meant he had to write a lot of short (and not always so great) pieces for piano, violin or voice, which could be played and performed in the home and thus sold in large numbers, providing a steady income. Another silk top hat could be ordered from Paris! Sibelius was also one of the great drinkers of all times. Amounts of alcohol that would have sent others to a hospital, or the morgue, barely warmed him up. A truly honorable Finn in this respect, too, he was. One of my favorite facts of Sibelius is that his famed violin concerto was meant to be a symphony. When the publisher received the early sketches, he replied to the composer that there wasn't all that much demand for a symphony, but a violin concerto would be another story. Thus musical history was changed probably for the better, at least if you ask violinists.

I remember seeing Sibelius only once, during the Sibelius Week a year before his death. My dear dad took me to these concerts early on: I must have been six. I remember the composer entering the University Festival Hall and everyone stood up instantly, as if the king had entered the premises. By this time the master had shrunk in size, but the respect by everyone present was extraordinary. Of the violinists playing his concerto, he liked David Oistrakh's interpretation the best, simply because, as the composer, he wanted the last movement played more slowly. He told Heifetz to his face that it shouldn't go as fast as he was doing it. I asked JH about their meeting. The only reply I got was the admiration of the way Sibelius could hold his liquor.

So, out on the lake today, it was just my youngest daughter rowing, the sea gulls flying and screaming overhead, the spirit of Sibelius omnipresent and lots of mosquitos trying to suck our blood. In other words, just the way a perfect Finnish summer day is supposed to be.

written on and sent by Cingular Siemens SX-66