Sibelius composed seven symphonies and even today they remain a challenge to modern orchestras as they explore sounds that are untraditional and that many orchestras are unpractised in. Many of the sounds that are explored in these symphonies are things that orchestras simply do not have to perform in any other piece of music.
The ambition of the works was outstanding and the BBC Symphony Orchestra have been attempting their performance, but because of the complexity they have recruited six different conductors in order to perform all seven symphonies in the best way. They have been doing performances since October and they will finished the run in May.
The symphonies were written over 25 years and smashed conventions at the time and many people regard them as one of the most important moments in the history of composition and 20th-century music.
Sibelius is the most famous composer in Finnish history and if you are walking through the streets of Helsinki then you will find many concert halls which have been named after the famous composer. Most of those that are not named after him will probably be named after one of his works. Today, Finland produces some of the world’s most famous works and composers and many people expect this is because of the intense influence that Sibelius had on the population of the country.
Sibelius was a great composer but his private life was rather strange. He was known as a very intense man but was incredibly charismatic. He was also a depressive and a hard drinker and this desperation comes through in many of his earlier works. Interestingly he finished his last piece in 1926 and never returned to writing music despite living three decades longer.
Those who listen to the seven symphonies composed by Sibelius can hear how he has put a great many of his emotions into them. There are moments of sheer beauty in his work but also times when the melodies are very restrained and these are quite telling of his changing moods and tempers.
Interestingly many people who knew him say that he might have composed an eighth Symphony at some point in his last 30 years of life, however, he was known for being very critical of his own work and it is expected that he burnt the eighth Symphony and it is never going to be heard.
The most experienced of the six conductors that the BBC Symphony Orchestra has recruited is Neeme Jarvi who is possibly the most famous classical Estonian musician on the planet. He will be conducting one of the pieces in April and has commented, “The second symphony was a huge turning point for Sibelius and I’m delighted to be able to conduct it because it is always such a well-received piece by audiences, mostly because of the wonderful and very loud ending.”
Another conductor is Alexander Vedernikov who stated that he very much enjoys the Northern influence that comes from Sibelius having composed in Finland himself.