About this Recording
2.110316 - MUSICAL JOURNEY (A) - FINLAND: Helsinki / Lake Haapavesi / Savonlinna / Kerimaki (NTSC)
English 

A Musical Tour of Finland
Helsinki • Lake Haapavesi • Savonlinna • Kerimäki
With music by Jean Sibelius

 

CHAPTER 1

Helsinki: Sibelius Park and Monument

The origins of Helsinki go back to 1550, when King Gustav Vasa of Sweden established Helsingfors as a rival to the important Hanseatic port of Tallinn. The city is built on a peninsula and surrounded by small islands. The Sibelius Park is in the Helsinki district of Töölö and contains a monument to Sibelius, an abstract work of six hundred hollow steel pipes by Eila Hiltunen, suggesting a forest, or, indeed, organ pipes. To meet objections to the commemoration of Sibelius by an abstract work a bust of the composer was added nearby.

Music Sibelius: Romance in C, Op 42

Sibelius evinced considerable lyrical gifts, and never more than in the famous Romance, Op 42, written in 1903, at a time when he was occupied with the composition of his Violin Concerto and the other more mundane problems that heavy drinking and increasing debts brought. Although trained as a violinist, his technique would not have surmounted the difficulties of his own concerto, but his understanding of his first instrument explains to some extent his feeling for melody and his idiomatic handling of the string orchestra.

CHAPTER 2

Helsinki: Temppeliaukio Church

Temppeliaukio Church is in the Töölö district of Helsinki. This remarkable Lutheran church is built into the rock and was designed by Timo and Tuomo Suomaleinen. Work on an earlier proposed building was interrupted by the war and the present building was started in 1968 and completed the following year. Natural light comes through the dome, capped by copper, and the organ was the work of Veikko Virtunen. The acoustic properties of the church, with its walls formed by the untreated rock-face, have made it a suitable place for concerts.

Music Sibelius: Andante Festivo

Sibelius’s Andante Festivo was written in 1922 and designed originally for string quartet, but re-arranged for string orchestra with optional timpani, narrowly preceding in order of composition the sixth of his seven symphonies.

CHAPTER 3

Helsinki: Lake Haapavesi

Finland is a country of lakes and islands. Lake Haapavesi lies to one side of Savonlinna and is seen in the half-light of evening, as the sun sets.

Music Sibelius: Canzonetta, Op 62a

Sibelius wrote his evocative Canzonetta for strings in 1911 for a revival of his brother-in-law Arvid Järnefelt’s play Kuolema (Death).

CHAPTER 4

Savonlinna: Landscape

The landscape of Savonlinna, lying to the north of Helsinki, boasts green fields, forests and lakes.

Music Sibelius: Symphony No 2 in D major, Op 43
I. Allegretto – Poco allegro – Tranquillo, ma poco a poco ravvivando il tempo al allegro

In 1900 Sibelius found a patron in the dilettante Axel Carpelan, a man who, while lacking extensive resources himself, was able to persuade money from others and was liberal in his advice. Carpelan recommended a visit to Italy and provided enough money to make this a possibility for Sibelius, his patient wife and his children. Time was spent in Berlin on the way south, but it was in Italy that the first sketches were made of Symphony No 2. In Finland once more Sibelius was able to work seriously on his new symphony, which he completed early in 1902 and conducted at a series of concerts in Helsinki in March. Audiences in Finland, where feelings of nationalism now ran high, were eager to find a patriotic statement of protest in the work, a programme that later writers have sometimes chosen to impose on the music. The first movement seems to move from the northern mists of Finland to a sunnier world, and critics have noted the pastoral atmosphere apparent here.

CHAPTER 5

Savonlinna: Landscape

A darker view of the countryside around Savonlinna is seen in the dark forests, a contrast to the sunnier grassland of the region.

Music Sibelius: Symphony No 2 in D major, Op 43
II. Tempo andante, ma rubato – Andante sostenuto

In Italy the principal theme of the second movement occurred to Sibelius in connection with the story of Don Juan and the idea suggested by the garden of the mountain villa that he rented for himself near Rapallo. Leaving his family at a pension in Rapallo, he moved, after two months, to Florence, where he sketched the second idea for the Andante of the new symphony, writing above it the word Christus, and his thoughts now turned to a work based on Dante’s Divina Commedia. The Andante, in origin at least, suggests Don Juan’s mysterious guest, Death, and his defeat by Christ. It starts with the plucked notes of double basses in an accompanying figuration taken up by the cellos, before bassoons announce the sombre theme.

CHAPTER 6

Kerimäki: Landscape and Church

The landscape around Kermimäki in Eastern Finland is characteristic, with its forests and, inevitably, its lakes and islets. The church at Kerimäki, built between 1844 and 1847, is the largest wooden church in the world, able to hold 3000 people, a miracle of wooden construction.

Music Sibelius: Symphony No 2 in D major, Op 43
III. Vivacissimo – Lento e suave – IV. Finale: Allegro molto

The scherzo adds a movement of busy turbulence, with a repetition of the trio, with its pastoral oboe melody. This leads directly into the grandiose principal theme of the heroic finale, darkened by the Finnish second theme and its sinister accompanying figure, but ending in triumph.

Keith Anderson

Recordings

Capella Istropolitana, cond. Adrian Leaper
[Romance, Andante Festivo & Canzonetta Naxos 8.550330]
[Symphony No 2 Naxos 8.550198]


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