About this Recording
2.110317 - MUSICAL JOURNEY (A) - FINLAND: Savonlinna (NTSC)
English 

A Musical Visit to Savonlinna, Finland
With music by Jean Sibelius

 

CHAPTER 1

Olavinlinna

Savonlinna lies to the north of the Finnish capital Helsinki, which itself is built on a peninsula surrounded by small islands. Savonlinna, founded in 1639, had its origin in the medieval castle of Olavinlinna, with its three surviving towers and massive fortifications. The castle was built in 1475 by Erik Axelssohn Tott as a defence against Russia. It is the site of a modern festival of opera.

Music Sibelius: Symphony No 1 in E minor, Op 39 – I. Andante ma non troppo – Allegro energico

Sibelius wrote his First Symphony in 1899, after a series of earlier symphonic poems in which he had shown his mastery of orchestration and his tendency, as a violinist and conductor, to think in orchestral terms. The symphony was first performed in Helsinki in April 1899, conducted by the composer. The first movement opens with a long-drawn clarinet melody, after which the strings enter, at first suggesting the tonality of G major rather than E minor. The movement is broadly in classical first-movement form, with two groups of themes, a central development and a short recapitulation.

CHAPTER 2

Landscape

The landscape of Savonlinna, lying to the north of Helsinki, boasts green fields, forests and lakes. Lake Haapavesi lies to one side of Savonlinna and is seen in the half-light of evening, as the sun sets.

Music Sibelius: Symphony No 1 in E minor, Op 39 – II. Andante (ma non troppo lento)

The thematic material of the slow movement of the symphony is closely interwoven, bound together by the re-appearance of the first theme. In this movement Sibelius claimed that a fugal passage for wind allowed the bassoon to add a tone colour that was strongly Finnish in character.

CHAPTER 3

Town

Savonlinna covers a group of interconnected islands, built first as a trading post, adjacent to the massive walls of Olavinlinna. The modern town has a population of over 27,000 with a marina that offers mooring for pleasure boats, while the town provides opportunities for travel by air, road or water.

Music Sibelius: Symphony No 1 in E minor, Op 39 – III. Scherzo: (Allegro)

The Scherzo bursts upon us, its opening rhythm repeated with vehemence by the timpani. To this the central Trio offers a tranquil contrast.

CHAPTER 4

Villa Rauhalinna • Landscape

The Moorish Villa Rauhalinna, a fantastic wooden building, now a hotel and restaurant, is sited at Lehtiniemi, some ten miles from Savonlinna. It was built by a Lieutenant General in the Russian army, Nils Weckman, as a silver wedding present for his wife and was completed in 1900.

Music Sibelius: Symphony No 1 in E minor, Op 39 – IV. Finale (Quasi una fantasia)

Like Tchaikovsky in his Symphonie pathétique, which he had heard in Helsinki two years before, Sibelius uses the clarinet melody with which the symphony opened to start the final movement, although the theme is transformed into a mood of tragic yearning, a feeling that prevails.

CHAPTER 5

Landscape

Parts of the countryside around Savonlinna are thickly wooded, providing that timber essential for houses and furniture. The dark forests are contrasted with the sunnier grassland of the region.

Music Sibelius: En Saga, Op 9

Sibelius had returned to Finland from study in Berlin and Vienna in 1891 and the following year married Aino Järnefelt. In this period he wrote En Saga, first performed in 1893 and then revised and completed in its present form in 1902. The work gives a general picture of the age of the Scandinavian sagas rather than any detailed programmatic interpretation.

Keith Anderson

Recordings

SIBELIUS Symphony No 1 (with No 6) 8.550197
Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra cond. Adrian Leaper

SIBELIUS En Saga (with Symphony No 5) 8.550200
Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra cond. Adrian Leaper


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