Week13; sibelius


He unites in himself, in fact, the characteristic qualities of the two racial types; the traditional charm, affability, and bonhomie of the Swede, and the fiercely independent spirit, the sturdy self-reliance, the love of isolation and solitude, the extreme reserve, of the Finn. “” cecil gray, Sibelius

those are incidentally the more apt descriptions of this recording’s  combination of sibelius’ fifth and seventh symphonies: the fifth being more of that genial and cheerful swedish hygge (actually danish). the seventh thereby more of that allegedly obstinate and austere character of the finns. even so, the seventh still travels at a lower altitude than the mountainous obstinacy of sibelius’ violin concerto and still several degrees warmer than the glacial austerities of the (upcoming) first symphony. in all of this 52-week catalog, i can’t at the moment think off a more bizarre ending to a composition than the one sibelius resorts to for his fifth symphony: ‘is my turntable broken?’ ‘of course sibelius would end it like it that’ ‘who else could pull that off, what a legend’———these and others were the succession of thoughts on the occasion of hearing this symphony for the first time.

there are about five exclamatory notes at the symphony’s exit, each of them spaced with an aisle of silence usually reserved for demarcating the end of a movement…

i’ve been in too good of a mood this week to speak at length or too fondly of the short brooding length of the seventh symphony—except that is hangs all throughout like an indecisive and heavy cloud. unable to relieve itself at the end with a caterwaul of a finale on account of having wasted its momentum on intermittent premonitory snide asides from the clarinet…

If the Fourth represents the highest point to which he attains in the direction of economy of material amd concision of form, the Seventh shows him at the summit of his powers in respect of fecundity of invention and subtlety and intricacy of design. It is not merely a consummate masterpiece of formal construction, however, but also a work of great expressive beauty, of a lofty grandeur and dignity, a truly Olympian serenity and repose which are unique in modern music, and for that matter, in modern art of any kind. It seems, indeed, to belong to a different age altogether, a different order of civilization, a different world almost---the world of classical antiquity. “” cecil gray , Sibelius



[...] for it is less difficult--though assuredly difficult enough--to do something which no one else has ever previously done, than to reveal a fresh and suspected beauty in the familiar, the obvious, the commonplace, the hackneyed even, which is what Sibelius does in this work. “” cecil gray on the fifth symphony, Sibelius

The Decca Record Company, Ltd Recording. Printed in London // Jean Sibelius (1865-1957) // Symphony No.5 in E flat major, op.82 & Symphony No.7 in C major, Op.105 //

Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Lorin Maazel

Symphony No.5

  • Tempo molto moderato

  • Andante mosso, quasi allegretto

  • Allegro molto

Symphony No.7  

In the first place he is to-day an uncompromising champion of pure music as opposed to operatic and programme music. Wagner, in particular, means, and always has meant, precisely nothing to Sibelius; for him, indeed, the art of Wagner is simply not music at all. The only operatic music that he unreservedly admires and enjoys is that of the Italians---Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti, Puccini even to a certain extent, and above all Verdi, for whom he has always cherished a deep respect and veneration. “” cecil gray, Sibelius

(a betelgeuse of music)———

In The Golden Gloaming - John Atkinson Grimshaw 1883

In The Golden Gloaming - John Atkinson Grimshaw 1883

In the Fifth Symphony in E flat major, op. 82, there is no trace of the brooding gloom and sombre melancholy which is the spiritual key-note of the Fourth, like the Third it is a sunny, genial work throughout. [...] If the Fourth is a White Dwarf, in fact, the Fifth is its opposite, a Red Giant, a Betelgeuse of music, a huge work in which the substance is highly attenuated and rarefied.  “” cecil gray, Sibelius

you can never have a surplus of cheerfulness in music, it’s always used up. and in the landscape of sibelius’ music his Fifth is the shinning star, made bulbous by the ballooning horn themes and made celestial by the solar magnitude of the trumpet and trombone sections. it is indeed a betelgeuse of music, a protracted ovation of light, undergirded by what must be the opposite of a silver lining—a bit of seriousness, gloominess, solemnity….

the french horns at the beginning of the third movement are an example of that combination of joy and seriousness—which is in one word: triumph.

triumph is a thing heavier, gloomier and more cheerful than joy—this Fifth could, with an imaginative stretch, register as an ode to triumph.