Why did Sibelius stop composing?

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Fergus
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Why did Sibelius stop composing?

Post by Fergus » Sat Sep 12, 2009 3:46 pm

Why, with thirty years of his life left, did Sibelius stop composing? I know little of his life history and I remember reading once that Sibelius had decided that he had nothing left to say. Can you offer any insight into why he decided to stop? Did he give notice of his impending retirement or was it sudden? Did he himself offer any explanation at the time or later in life?

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Re: Why did Sibelius stop composing?

Post by Donaldopato » Sat Sep 12, 2009 4:44 pm

Probably more speculation than answers on this one. Some say that Sibelius, prone to depression and being hypercritical simply lost the ability to produce anything he felt was worthy. He did complete some small works, but the enigmatic 8th was never to be performed, or maybe never even completed.

Some think he felt he had accomplished all he had set out to do and sat back and watched 20th century music evolve without him.
Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds. - Albert Einstein

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Re: Why did Sibelius stop composing?

Post by stenka razin » Sat Sep 12, 2009 5:02 pm

One of the great tragedies in music. Sibelius just did not have it in him anymore. He showed the distinguised British conductor the score for his 8th Symphony in 1935 and that's about all we know of it. It is believed to have been burned by the composer near his rural Finnish home. I guess he was dissatisfied with it...or maybe life..The 2nd World War was approaching and that may have depressed him, too. Sadly his composing career was over.... :( :( :( :(
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Re: Why did Sibelius stop composing?

Post by absinthe » Sat Sep 12, 2009 5:20 pm

Sibelius seems to be one of those composers whose music really evolved and it's difficult to imagine him outdoing his 7th. Symphonically at least it was probably the last he had to say even if he hoped he could expand into the 8th. I can almost hear him anticipating the 7th in that utterly gorgeous opening to the 6th.

(As a student I was absolutely fobidden to study Sibelius' orchestration because apparently it is too infectious.)

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Re: Why did Sibelius stop composing?

Post by Fergus » Sun Sep 13, 2009 4:54 am

I was aware of the depression element in his life but I am unaware of the extent to which it took hold of him. Was it a debilitating condition with him for that whole later period?

In relation to the concept that an Artist would settle for a body of work I find it difficult to accept that an Artist would not want to continue to at least strive to interpet Life and continually strive to achieve different ways of doing that. Of course, if there was an underlying mental condition there that would be an entirely different issue. What a pity and a tragedy both for him and for posterity,

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Re: Why did Sibelius stop composing?

Post by piston » Sun Sep 13, 2009 6:15 am

The same question could be asked of Paul Dukas who was super hyper-critical of his own work. The difference, though, is that Dukas invested all of his energy into teaching and mentoring. Sibelius is somewhat peculiar in that he seemingly stopped investing energy in any musical endeavor. Well, you know what they say about alcohol: it's a depressant. Apparently, this depressant, consumed in addictive quantity, could either kill you (e.g., Mussorgsky) or stall you (e.g., Glazunov, Sibelius).
In the eyes of those lovers of perfection, a work is never finished—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned....(Paul Valéry)

piston
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Re: Why did Sibelius stop composing?

Post by piston » Sun Sep 13, 2009 6:23 am

One problem with Mussorgsky is that he would stop composing a given work before it was all done and move on to another one! At least, Sibelius and Glazunov mostly finished what they were doing.
In the eyes of those lovers of perfection, a work is never finished—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned....(Paul Valéry)

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Re: Why did Sibelius stop composing?

Post by John F » Sun Sep 13, 2009 8:06 am

Why did Sibelius stop composing?
Nobody knows.
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Re: Why did Sibelius stop composing?

Post by piston » Sun Sep 13, 2009 8:41 am

What I don't know is why Sibelius generally gets all the attention on this particular point. He stopped composing during the 1920s, pretty much at the same time as Charles Ives.
According to his wife, one day in early 1927 he came downstairs with tears in his eyes: he could compose no more, he said, "nothing sounds right." There have been numerous theories advanced to explain the silence of his late years, which seems as mysterious as the last several decades of the life of Jean Sibelius, who also stopped composing at almost the same time. While Ives had stopped composing, and was increasingly plagued by health problems, he did continue to revise and refine his earlier work, as well as oversee premieres of his music
In the eyes of those lovers of perfection, a work is never finished—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned....(Paul Valéry)

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Re: Why did Sibelius stop composing?

Post by stenka razin » Sun Sep 13, 2009 8:54 am

piston wrote:What I don't know is why Sibelius generally gets all the attention on this particular point. He stopped composing during the 1920s, pretty much at the same time as Charles Ives.
According to his wife, one day in early 1927 he came downstairs with tears in his eyes: he could compose no more, he said, "nothing sounds right." There have been numerous theories advanced to explain the silence of his late years, which seems as mysterious as the last several decades of the life of Jean Sibelius, who also stopped composing at almost the same time. While Ives had stopped composing, and was increasingly plagued by health problems, he did continue to revise and refine his earlier work, as well as oversee premieres of his music
piston, maybe the reason is that Ives had a sersous heart condition, which was well known and was retired from running Ives and Merrick, one of the premiere American insurance agancies. My mother worked for him a long,long time ago. Whereas, Sibelius was in comparatively good health, when he stopped composing, mate. 8)
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Re: Why did Sibelius stop composing?

Post by lmpower » Sun Sep 13, 2009 9:27 am

A heart condition didn't stop Mahler from writing great music. I suspect alcohol may have damged Sibelius' brain, but I don't really know. It's just a guess until we get a definitive answer if ever.

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Re: Why did Sibelius stop composing?

Post by NancyElla » Sun Sep 13, 2009 9:30 pm

piston wrote:What I don't know is why Sibelius generally gets all the attention on this particular point. He stopped composing during the 1920s, pretty much at the same time as Charles Ives.
According to his wife, one day in early 1927 he came downstairs with tears in his eyes: he could compose no more, he said, "nothing sounds right." There have been numerous theories advanced to explain the silence of his late years, which seems as mysterious as the last several decades of the life of Jean Sibelius, who also stopped composing at almost the same time. While Ives had stopped composing, and was increasingly plagued by health problems, he did continue to revise and refine his earlier work, as well as oversee premieres of his music
Who knows where the creative genius of composers comes from, and where or why it goes when it disappears? Evidently Copland experienced a loss of creativity similar to what Ives experienced, and is quoted as saying: "It was exactly as if someone had simply turned off a faucet." Having never had such a creative spark to lose, I cannot image how devastating it would be to have such an ability, and then have it no longer.
"This is happiness; to be dissolved into something complete and great." --Willa Cather

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Re: Why did Sibelius stop composing?

Post by piston » Sun Sep 13, 2009 10:07 pm

NancyElla wrote:
piston wrote:What I don't know is why Sibelius generally gets all the attention on this particular point. He stopped composing during the 1920s, pretty much at the same time as Charles Ives.
According to his wife, one day in early 1927 he came downstairs with tears in his eyes: he could compose no more, he said, "nothing sounds right." There have been numerous theories advanced to explain the silence of his late years, which seems as mysterious as the last several decades of the life of Jean Sibelius, who also stopped composing at almost the same time. While Ives had stopped composing, and was increasingly plagued by health problems, he did continue to revise and refine his earlier work, as well as oversee premieres of his music
Who knows where the creative genius of composers comes from, and where or why it goes when it disappears? Evidently Copland experienced a loss of creativity similar to what Ives experienced, and is quoted as saying: "It was exactly as if someone had simply turned off a faucet." Having never had such a creative spark to lose, I cannot image how devastating it would be to have such an ability, and then have it no longer.

In any case, it indicates a high level of self-criticism. Numerous composers had no problem being repetitive or derivative when their creative genius had left them.
In the eyes of those lovers of perfection, a work is never finished—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned....(Paul Valéry)

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Re: Why did Sibelius stop composing?

Post by John F » Mon Sep 14, 2009 1:17 am

NancyElla wrote:Who knows where the creative genius of composers comes from, and where or why it goes when it disappears? Evidently Copland experienced a loss of creativity similar to what Ives experienced, and is quoted as saying: "It was exactly as if someone had simply turned off a faucet." Having never had such a creative spark to lose, I cannot image how devastating it would be to have such an ability, and then have it no longer.
Who knows how the mind works? Most people lose some of their mental powers as they grow older. (It's said that historically, mathematicians have done their most creative work by 30, and few make major breakthroughs after 50.) Sometimes the loss is devastating - think Alzheimer's Disease - but even barring dementia, we still suffer losses. Sibelius was 60 when he wrote his last published work, "Tapiola," which certainly shows no loss of imaginative power or compositional skill. Maybe something happened in the right side of his brain to block him. But there's no evidence that I know of to support this notion.

Actually, Sibelius didn't stop composing at 60. He stopped publishing. For years he went on writing music, notably an 8th symphony, and didn't keep it a secret, but he kept his new music to himself. Evidently he felt personally that it wasn't good enough, but prevented us from making our own judgments by destroying it all. Was this from severe artistic self-criticism, or other personal reasons such as depression or alcoholism? I haven't read a major biography of Sibelius and don't know what his wife and children, friends, and associates might have told about his state of mind, if they ever did; maybe someone here can fill this in.
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Re: Why did Sibelius stop composing?

Post by Holden Fourth » Mon Sep 14, 2009 3:31 am

Rossini, who supposedly composed his 6 string sonatas at the age of 12 in 1804 had effectively retired from composing by 1832 at the age of 40. He lived until 1868, another 36 years. Whatever his motives, he just retired and I suppose that's what Sibelius did.

In Rossini's case, he'd made enough money from his operas to explore other lifestyles and did what many of us would like to do today - retire early with the money to support retirement. From what I can gather, Sibelius did not die penniless and probably took the early retirement route because he felt he had nothing else to say. Comparisons with Rossini abound and I can't understand the idea that depression/alcoholism/psychological problems were the cause. Rossini became a noted bon vivant and gourmand - you could also say that hedonism destroyed his composing career (but that wouldn't be right).

Sibelius died at the ripe old age of 91. He was feted in his homeland and overseas. He'd said what he had to say and got out when he felt he was on top of his game. I can think of a few sportsmen who could take heed of that example.

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Re: Why did Sibelius stop composing?

Post by piston » Mon Sep 14, 2009 6:32 am

It isn't a retirement, that I do know. For one thing, the eight, like Tapiola before it, was a commission, an American commission. The great Finnish composer promised it and owed it to Koussevitzky who not only pressed him for this work for many years but even scheduled it, in Boston, several consecutive years.

Secondly, no serious biographer would doubt that Sibelius was being haunted by "internal demons" which clearly manifested themselves from the fifth symphony onwards. We often fail to realize how the work we hear today can be greatly different from its original version. Take a look at the history of the Fifth symphony: the original version was composed over a long period of time and, then, it was revised twice. The composer was not happy with the "mitigated" success of the first version and experienced "terrible anguish" in giving birth to what was, for him, a satisfactory version of that symphony. This anxiety never left him afterwards. In fact, some go so far as to argue that we are lucky to have Tapiola today! Had Sibelius not been so busy at the time when it was being printed, he would have recalled the manuscript and worked on it some more.

Lasly, Sibelius traveled frequently and widely before he withdrew completely to his Finnish home. He even came to the USA! He sought to reinvigorate his creative energy in Italy; he traveled through Europe to become acquainted with the works of other composers; he accepted invitations to conduct his own works.. Most of this activity came to an end, abruptly. "Aesthetic anguish" and "philosophical doubt" could no longer be overcome and, ultimately, immobilized him.

The issue is not that we know nothing (after all, serious biographers have consulted his private papers). Rather, it is how is one to interpret such paralysing aesthetic anguish and philosophical doubt.
In the eyes of those lovers of perfection, a work is never finished—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned....(Paul Valéry)

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Re: Why did Sibelius stop composing?

Post by piston » Mon Sep 14, 2009 7:03 am

I would have loved to hear a post-Tapiola Sibelius! For the fun of it, do people know the meaning of the word "Tapiola"?
In the eyes of those lovers of perfection, a work is never finished—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned....(Paul Valéry)

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Re: Why did Sibelius stop composing?

Post by stenka razin » Mon Sep 14, 2009 7:46 am

piston wrote:I would have loved to hear a post-Tapiola Sibelius! For the fun of it, do people know the meaning of the word "Tapiola"?

Tapiola portrays the terrifying spirit (Tapio) lying behind the stark Finnish pine-forests that enveloped Sibelius's isolated home outside Järvenpää. Sibelius's tone poem is a magnificent description of this Finnish nature spirit. 8)
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Re: Why did Sibelius stop composing?

Post by piston » Mon Sep 14, 2009 7:58 am

Yes! He had been moving not simply in the direction of "environmental" music, so to speak, but of pantheistic spirituality. Tapio, the Finnish King of the Forest; Tapiola, the forest world where Tapio dwells.
In the eyes of those lovers of perfection, a work is never finished—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned....(Paul Valéry)

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Re: Why did Sibelius stop composing?

Post by piston » Mon Sep 14, 2009 8:27 am

Shortly after the end of WWI and the Finnish Civil War (an interesting story in itself because, were it not for the loyalty of his butler, Sibelius probably would have been shot for hiding a revolver from the Reds!). This entry from his journal clearly indicates the extent to which his fifth symphony, "premiered" four to five years earlier, had been subjected to Sibelius's very severe self-criticism:
The Vth symphony in a new form practically
composed anew I work at daily. Movement I en
tirely new, movement II reminiscent of the old, move
ment III reminiscent of the end of the I movement of
the old. Movement IV the old motifs, but stronger
in revision. The whole, if I may say so, a vital climax to
the end. Triumphal.
In the eyes of those lovers of perfection, a work is never finished—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned....(Paul Valéry)

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Re: Why did Sibelius stop composing?

Post by piston » Mon Sep 14, 2009 8:33 am

" The reservation in my statement about the two new symphonies was fully justified. The fifth symphony was not completed in its final form until the autumn of 1919 and a long time was to elapse before its two successors appeared and then not exactly in the form I had originally intended. The final form of one's work is, indeed, dependent on powers that are stronger than oneself.[from a later journal entry]... one can substantiate this or that, but on the whole one is merely a tool This wonderful logic let us call it God that governs a work of art is the forcing power/'
In the eyes of those lovers of perfection, a work is never finished—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned....(Paul Valéry)

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Re: Why did Sibelius stop composing?

Post by piston » Mon Sep 14, 2009 8:55 am

Composing has been the guiding line in my life, and it still is so. My work has the same fascination for me as when I was young, a fascination bound up with the difficulty of the task. Let no one imagine that com posing is easier for an old composer if he takes his art seriously. The demands one makes on oneself have in creased in the course of years. Greater sureness makes one scorn solutions that come too easily, that follow the line of least resistance, in a higher degree than formerly. One is always faced with new problems. The thing that has pleased me most is that I have been able to reject. The greatest labor I have expended, per haps, was on works that have never been completed.


When you have lived as long as I, and have seen one tendency after another being born, blossom, and die, you are inclined to take up a less decided position. You prefer to search for what is good, wher ever you can find it. In doing so you often discover that almost every musical school even if it has on the whole aimed at a goal that you cannot approve, has, nevertheless, in some respect or other had something good about it. The surprising thing is that even those periods that have yielded the least direct gain have certainly had their own great importance. Even mistakes exist in order to widen the horizon, and, for instance, with regard to the atonic music of twenty years ago, even that has left something good behind it, at any rate in a technical sense. In this connection I must confess that if I were young again, but equipped with the experience life has given me, I think that I should therefore be considerably more appreciative of Wagner than I once was. My decided antagonism to Wagner in my youth was, I fancy, dictated to some extent by the fear of being subjected to an influence that I had seen taking possession of so many of my friends, both old and, young. And yet I still place Verdi higher than Wagner. Opera is, after all, a conventional form of art and should be cultivated as such.

The composer for me above all others is Beethoven. I am affected as powerfully by the human side of him as by his music. He is a revelation to me. He was a Titan. Everything was against him and yet he triumphed.

If you look at it thoroughly, I believe that there is a kind of freemasonry among composers owing to things having been and being so difficult for us. All of us have to reckon with the critics and the public. For my part, thanks to the experience of a long lifetime, I have learned to accept disappointment and reverses with resignation. Scarcely one of my best works was met with the right understanding when first performed. Thev took at least twentv vears to succeed. With regard to immediate success I have long since been cured of all illusions.

I find much that is interesting in present-day music, although I cannot be in sympathy with all the tendencies that have been expressed within the last few decades. There has been too much experimenting, and unaffected feeling has not always been allowed to come into its own.

The error of our day has long been its faith in polyphony. It has seemed as if people imagined that the whole had become better by placing nonentities on top of each other. Polyphony is, of course, a force when there is good reason for it, but for a long time it has almost seemed as if an illness had been raging among composers.

The instrumentation in many modern works has been too showy ' fire in your mouth to scare the children.

I have not been able to avoid the impression, too, that much, yes, too much, in present-day music has very little connection with life. The themes often seem artificial, the elaboration mechanical.

At one time it appeared to me that many present-day composers lacked what the great Swedish poet Rydberg called joy in life. They made one think of court councilors composing, their works made one think of doctors' dissertations. That was then. Now that these gods have been cast down I feel optimistic."


All citations from Karl Ekman, Jean Sibelius: His Life and Personality, a work published in 1938, when, notwithstanding his failure to compose, Sibelius was still thought of as an active composer and actually encouraged such a notion!
In the eyes of those lovers of perfection, a work is never finished—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned....(Paul Valéry)

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Re: Why did Sibelius stop composing?

Post by piston » Mon Sep 14, 2009 1:36 pm

1927
5-8-1927: (in his diary) “Abused, lonely, all my real friends dead. Just now my prestige here is non-existent. Impossible to work.” [yet Kajanus, Gallen-Kallela, his brothers-in-law Arvid, Eero and Armas Jarnefelt and his most supportive wife Aino were all very much alive and well]

(Same diary entry): “In order to be able to live at all, I must consume alcohol. Wine or wisky [sic]. That’s the reason for all this.”

He would make a record of his alcohol consumption in his diary as follows: “Sine alcohole” or “Days under the influence of alcohol. Depression.”

1928
Little done composition-wise. Sibelius sends contradictory messages about the progress made on his 8th symphony.

1929
A creative burst of energy bringing forth “a stream of short pieces”: The Fives Esquisses for piano, op. 114, and the op. 115 and 116 pieces for violin and piano, all composed in April, as was the Suite for Violin and String Orchestra, JS 185.
“These pieces make it apparent that Sibelius was on the threshold of a radical new stylistic period, in wbhich the close thematic integration of the Seventh Symphony and Tapiola woujld yield to spikier motifs and more audacious harmonies. Even though he often gives the pieces titles that allude to the natural world, his approach to it is now predominantly conceptual rather than descriptive.”

The Suite and the instrumental works were rejected by, Carl Fischer, the American publisher who had invited Sibelius to compose them (incidentally, his letter to Sibelius preceded the Crash by over a month):
“We must reluctantly inform you that in view of the extremely unfortunate constellation in the music publishing field in the United States, it seems to us inadvisable at the present time to publish compositions of the high standard which you have submitted to us.”

1930
Aino observes, in a letter to Linda, that “He has become a real hermit. Just think: Janne, who used to be so sociable.”
Sibelius composes only one work, a song:
“Karjalan osa” (Karelia’s fate), JS 108 –strophic song for unison male choir and piano.

1931
Sibelius reluctantly composes Surusoitto (Funeral Music) for organ, op. 111b, for the funeral ceremony of his friend, painter Akseli Gallen-Kallela.. It is a rather substantial organ work which Sibelius managed to compose in a few days. Aino would later found plausible the possibility that this funeral piece was directly drawn from a main theme of the projected 8th symphony. “We are thus left with the possibilities either that he had already decided that the symphony was doomed (improbable at this early stage) or that he used motifs that had already been rejected in a symphonic context.”

April: last Sibelius trip abroad, with the intention of working on his symphony: Berlin.
“To judge from his letters to Aino he made good progress with the symphony, but in late May he fell ill and was diagnosed with pleurisy. His doctor, Professor Zuekler, gave him an experimental medicine, Eutonon, which made him feel very much worse. The Boldemanns made sure that he stopped the treatment; as soon as he had recovered he hurried home to Finland.”

August: Gives a piece for piano four-hands as a 60th birthday present to Aino: Rakkaalle Ainolle (To My Beloved Aino), JS 161.

Feels “full of youth” in December and making good progress on the Eight, which, he tells Koussevitzky, he hopes will be ready for performance the following spring.

1932-38
Three conductors are promised the Eight –Koussevitzky, Cameron and Schneevoigt– for the spring of 1933.

“A diary entry reveals that in May 1933 Sibelius was still working on the first movement of the symphony, but it was soon ready and was delivered to the copyist Paul Voigt. By 4th September, Voigt had finished and sent an invoice for his work thus far – 23 pages. Sibelius wrote to him saying that there should be a fermata at the end, after which the music would lead directly into a Largo. The entire symphony was to be roughly eight times as extensive as what had so far been delivered. After that, however, it becomes impossible to follow the symphony’s traces.”

Andrew Barnett’s interpretation, in conclusion:
“Sibelius was well aware of his special gifts. His diary reflects his rapidly changing moods from ‘In good spirits – again a Himalya’ to ‘Have been in Hades’ as well as his acute sensitivity to any kind of criticism. Hew was an avid reader of reviews even though he was often deeply wounded by what the critics wrote. In the end, though, he was his own severest critic, ever eager to withdraw or suppress works that he did not regard as meeting his own exacting standards. It was this self-critical attitude that brought the destruction of the Eight Symphony, but the very same trait forced him to keep on revising the Fifth until it was perfect.”

All citations from Andrew Barnett, Sibelius, Yale University Press, 2007.
In the eyes of those lovers of perfection, a work is never finished—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned....(Paul Valéry)

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Re: Why did Sibelius stop composing?

Post by Fergus » Mon Sep 14, 2009 2:59 pm

Excellent insights Piston....thank you very much for all of your illuminating postings....and indeed thank s to everyone else.

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Re: Why did Sibelius stop composing?

Post by diegobueno » Mon Sep 14, 2009 3:53 pm


“These pieces make it apparent that Sibelius was on the threshold of a radical new stylistic period, in which the close thematic integration of the Seventh Symphony and Tapiola woujld yield to spikier motifs and more audacious harmonies.


Sibelius wrote to him saying that there should be a fermata at the end, after which the music would lead directly into a Largo. The entire symphony was to be roughly eight times as extensive as what had so far been delivered. After that, however, it becomes impossible to follow the symphony’s traces.”


This is really tantalizing stuff. He had a 40 minute symphony up his sleeve, a really major work. And he actually let part of it out of his hands. If only the copyist had been just a little unscrupulous and made another copy for himself!

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Re: Why did Sibelius stop composing?

Post by Modernistfan » Mon Sep 14, 2009 4:31 pm

Stenka: Your mother worked for Charles Ives's insurance agency? That is absolutely remarkable! He was extremely successful before he retired, and Ives & Myrick was one of the largest insurance agencies in the United States. My understanding is that some of his material on selling insurance, estate planning, and determining how much coverage would be optimum was used in the insurance world for many years.

In "The Rest is Noise," Alex Ross gives a lot of space to the problem of the missing Sibelius Eighth Symphony. He apparently did burn many manuscripts at his rural Finnish home, Ainola, in the mid-1940's. It is not clearly determined whether any of the Eighth Symphony went up in smoke, and, if so, whether the work was completed or merely consisted of the opening movement referred to. I would love for a fair copy to turn up, but the odds on that are longer than going to the racetrack tomorrow and seeing a race with a full field of unicorns.

Yes, Sibelius was an alcoholic; after a bout with throat cancer around 1911 or so, his doctors ordered him to stop drinking, but he didn't comply.

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Re: Why did Sibelius stop composing?

Post by stenka razin » Mon Sep 14, 2009 4:36 pm

Modernistfan wrote:Stenka: Your mother worked for Charles Ives's insurance agency? That is absolutely remarkable! He was extremely successful before he retired, and Ives & Myrick was one of the largest insurance agencies in the United States. My understanding is that some of his material on selling insurance, estate planning, and determining how much coverage would be optimum was used in the insurance world for many years.

In "The Rest is Noise," Alex Ross gives a lot of space to the problem of the missing Sibelius Eighth Symphony. He apparently did burn many manuscripts at his rural Finnish home, Ainola, in the mid-1940's. It is not clearly determined whether any of the Eighth Symphony went up in smoke, and, if so, whether the work was completed or merely consisted of the opening movement referred to. I would love for a fair copy to turn up, but the odds on that are longer than going to the racetrack tomorrow and seeing a race with a full field of unicorns.

Yes, Sibelius was an alcoholic; after a bout with throat cancer around 1911 or so, his doctors ordered him to stop drinking, but he didn't comply.

Yes, she did work for Ives and Mryick, my friend, but so, so long ago. :D :D :D :D

Mel 8)
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Re: Why did Sibelius stop composing?

Post by piston » Mon Sep 14, 2009 4:36 pm

I'd like to bring a slightly broader perspective to Fergus's original topic: all the Sibelius scores that were not ultimately accepted by the composer and which have either survived or were destroyed. The Eight will always be the more fascinating of all these rejected scores but probably will never be recovered. However, if one is interested in listening to Sibelius's "creative process," Mr. Vanska is your man! He has recorded an earlier four-movement version of the Fifth Symphony as well as a pretty neat find on his part -- the "Yale version" of The Oceanides, which was given its world premiere in 2002!

When Sibelius dispatched the first version of The Oceanides to H. Parker, he was extremely happy with his work (very seldom would Sibelius relinquish control over a manuscript in this fashion). But, predictably, this early response gave way to self-criticism and he revised the work so systematically that, according to Vanska, the first version's grand lake became the second version's ocean. Yale University kept the first version in its archives where the conductor unearthed it some 88 years later:
The comprehensive survey of Sibelius's orchestral music that Osmo Vanska and the Lahti Symphony Orchestra have been steadily compiling for the Swedish label BIS is perhaps the most valuable long-term recording project of the past decade, and it comes to an end with this release. Apart from the top-class accounts of all the symphonies and tone poems, from an orchestra and a conductor that have lived with this repertory all their lives, the series has unearthed a steady stream of rarities. Vanska has been rooting out unpublished pieces, earlier versions of well-known scores as well as scarcely performed occasional pieces, and this final volume is made up almost entirely of just such extras and additions, including the three vital phases in the evolution of one of Sibelius's most perfectly achieved works.

Earlier in the series Vanska revealed the mechanics of Sibelius's creative process: how he worried away at a work until it achieved precisely the form he wanted, by recording the first, chamber-music version of the tone poem En Saga and the original four-movement form of the Fifth Symphony, a work that we now know in three movements. On this disc he charts the emergence of the tone poem The Oceanides, Sibelius's vivid depiction of the sea, composed between the Fourth and Fifth Symphonies. The piece takes its name from the sea nymphs of Greek mythology; it was the only one of his tone poems not to use as its programmatic source the Kalevala, the repository of Finnish myth that served him so well.

The version of The Oceanides that is played today was first performed in New Haven, Connecticut in June 1914. It had been commissioned by Yale University the previous year at the instigation of the professor of music, Horatio Parker, also known to musical history as the teacher of Charles Ives. Sibelius sent the score of The Oceanides to Parker in March of that year, but immediately had second thoughts and rewrote the work completely before setting sail for the US. Some of the themes were retained from the version sent to Yale, but they were reordered; the key was hiked up from D flat major to D, and new material added, which Sibelius cannibalised from two movements of a Suite for Orchestra had begun the previous year.

Until Vanska unearthed it, that original Yale score had never been performed. Heard alongside the movements of the orchestral Suite and the final definitive score it seems far more impressionistic with fewer hard edges, and underlines again how extraordinarily instinctive and sure Sibelius's sense of form - and of his own musical voice - was. No one could imagine from hearing The Oceanides the way in which it had reached the shape it fills so naturally, or how its teasing thematic links were established. Here Vanska gives us three snapshots of that vital development and it is fascinating, just as so much in this wonderful series of recordings has immeasurably enriched our knowledge of one of the greatest and most singular of all 20th-century composers.
Image
Aallottaret (The Oceanides) (Yale version) (1914) [7.25]
Fragments from a suite for orchestra (The predecessor of The Oceanides) (1) Tempo moderato - attacca - (2) Allegro (1914) [7.19]
The Oceanides (Aallottaret) (final version) (1914) [10.03]
Cassazione (first version) (1904) [12.14]
Musik zu Einer Scène (1904) [5.32]
Coronation March (1904) [2.10]
Morceau Romantique (1925) [1.58]
Porilaisten Marssi (arr. Sibelius) (1900) [2.14]
Cortège (1905) [5.41]
Spring Song (1904) [9.18]
Lahti SO/Osmo Vänskä
rec. Sibelius Hall, Lahti, 2-3 Jan 2003, 29 May 2002, 22 Aug 2000, 4, 10-11 Jan 2002. DDD
In the eyes of those lovers of perfection, a work is never finished—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned....(Paul Valéry)

piston
Posts: 10767
Joined: Thu Jan 04, 2007 7:50 am

Re: Why did Sibelius stop composing?

Post by piston » Mon Sep 14, 2009 8:56 pm

You have to wonder if things would have turned out differently for this hesitant, self-critical composer had he truly accepted a professorship at the Eastman School of Music, in 1921. Poor Alf Klingenberg --a Norwegian pianist friend from the days of Sibelius's musical education in Berlin-- did everything in his power to get him to accept the offer. In fact, Sibelius did accept it, at the beginning of 1921. The New York Times reported that he was coming to teach in Rochester, NY. But by March he had changed his mind.
By the end of the month he had made a firm decision concerning America, and wrote to Alf Klingenberg announcing that he could not after all accept the offer. In the ensuing exchange of telegrams Klingenberg almost persuaded him to change his mind again, but on 9th May he gave his final verdict: he would stay in Finland.
Klingenberg rapidly found a solution in his compatriot Christian Sinding, but after one season at Rochester Sinding left the institution.
Shortly thereafter industrialist George Eastman fired Klingenberg and Howard Hanson was invited to serve as Acting Director for the remainder of the Norwegian's four-year contract.....
In the eyes of those lovers of perfection, a work is never finished—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned....(Paul Valéry)

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