Orchestral suite with period instruments
Tomas Djupsjöbacka, conductor
Finnish Baroque Orchestra
Around the world, the early music movement is moving beyond Baroque music to newer time periods. Even the proud war horses of the post-war record industry from Wagner to Bruckner are played using the principles of historically-informed performance practice. The Finnish Baroque Orchestra (FiBO) is at the forefront of performing Jean Sibelius’ music on period instruments. Conductor Tomas Djupsjöbacka and FiBO will perform Sibelius’ Lemminkäinen Suite in the second concert of the Sibelius and Contemporaries project.
During Sibelius’ time, string instruments used gut strings and woodwinds still used older models of their instruments that differ from the ones used today. Viennese horns and German-style trumpets also contributed to the unique sound of orchestras during that time.
The first premiere of the Lemminkäinen Suite in 1896 (opus 22) was related to the symbolist movement in visual art, which in Finland often related to depictions of characters from the Kalevala. Closely related to Sibelius’ personal dark compositional language were Arnold Böcklin or the dreamy paintings made by friend Akseli Gallen-Kallela.
Today we know that Lemminkäinen was originally planned to be an opera, which Sibelius abandoned after hearing Wagner in Bayreuth and in Munich in 1894. The composer was completely shocked by the intensity of his experiences, and decided that his future lay elsewhere than in stage music.
The Lemminkäinen Suite combines both Wagnerian erotica with archaic and exotic folk music. The sacred swans of Wagner’s operas sway behind the fine-tuned orchestration of the Swan of Tuonela, but the music’s rhythmic and melodic roots are Finnish.
Sibelius modeled his work on the orchestral tone poems of Berlioz and Liszt, but the four-part structure of the Lemminkäinen Suite also hints at the structure of a classical symphony. The composer titled the work “Four Legends”, but left it as part of a series of nine symphonies, along with his choral symphony Kullervo.
Duration: 1 h (no intermission)