Jean Sibelius, 1865-1957, by Christopher Nupen (I)

First Part – The Early Years

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Sveriges Radios Symfoniorkester

Vladimir Ashkenazy — Conductor

Elisabeth Söderström — Soprano

Boris Belkin — Violinist

Finnish Radio Orchestra

Program notes

This is an intimate account, using film and Sibelius's music and words, of a great artist's struggle with his medium, with the world and with himself. The films set out also to try and free Sibelius's reputation from some of the unnecessary encrustations of history by looking at the composer's own declared intentions, so poetically expressed, which are earning the increasing attention and respect of composers today.

"You have lit a candle in the world of music that will never go out."
Ralph Vaughan Williams

At the peak of his career, Sibelius was hailed by almost every leading critic and composer in England as the greatest symphonist of the twentieth century. In 1935, a survey by the New York Philharmonic Society showed his music to be more popular with their concert-goers than that of any other composer, living or dead, a degree of recognition in his own lifetime unequalled in Western music.

By the mid-1960's however, critics in England, and to a lesser extent in the United States, had reacted against the effusions of their forebears and relegated Sibelius to a position of Minor importance. Views are changing again, and the time is right for a re-assessment of Sibelius's work.

The films are made in the belief that if the music of Sibelius is approached with a gesture of commitment and measure of understanding, it offers rewards on the level of the greatest masters in Western music and the films are made in the hope of contributing something to that understanding.

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