Every issue of the Newsletter contains a selection of shorter news items, a listing of new record releases (sometimes with reviews) and a details of a selection of forthcoming concerts around the UK featuring Sibelius’s music. In addition the Newsletter is a rich source of thought-provoking articles.

Below is a selection of recent topics discussed in the Newsletter, with extracts from individual articles:–

Newsletter 56 (October 2004)

Harsh as Fate
Edward W. Clark discusses Sibelius’s Fourth Symphony

Sibelius in Korpo 2004
Andrew G. Barnett reports on the major summer Sibelius event in the Turku archipelago

Sibelius, Sibelius & More Sibelius
John Peregrine on the 2004 Proms and Lahti International Sibelius Festival

Swimming with Dolphins
Edward W. Clark reports on the 2004 Lahti International Sibelius Festival

Thinking of Others
Denys J. Corrigan makes the case against Sibelius’s Violin Concerto
Should the jaded veterans of the concert hall seek to deprive the neophytes of the thrill of discovery? It is not, after all, as though the music scene of today resembles that of fifty years ago, when people would walk out on almost anything containing an unresolved discord, and when anything composed later than, say, 1910 would not be countenanced. Nowadays, to enjoy your favourite nineteenth-century warhorse, you may well have to grit your teeth through something truly avant garde in the same programme.

Sir John Barbirolli and Jean Sibelius
Edward W. Clark considers the unique qualities of Barbirolli’s Sibelius

KAIKU – A Celebration of Finnish Music
Edward W. Clark reviews the Finnish music concerts at the Barbican in June 2004

South-Coast Sibelius
An occasional series of news & reviews from the Bournemouth area by Steve Williams

From the Horse’s Mouth
Peter Frankland rejoices in some memories of Sibelius by Walter Legge

Sibelius’s Eighth Symphony – ‘An Epic Fantasy’
Edward W. Clark discusses a new article shedding unexpected light on the Eighth Symphony

…but I thought Sibelius only wrote one quartet…
Andrew G. Barnett discusses Sibelius’s familiar and unfamiliar music for quartet
If we persist in the old view that Sibelius’s works that predate Kullervo are no more than student exercises then, perhaps, he did only write one quartet of substance. Now that this music is increasingly being performed and recorded, however, this standpoint seems increasingly hard to justify. The early quartets are music of considerable merit in their own right but, perhaps even more significantly, to overlook these works is to disregard a critical chapter in his development, a phase that sheds essential light on his later music. We ignore these works at our peril.

Has time been kind to Sibelius? Edward W. Clark finds out.

Newsletter 57 (May 2005)

Torbay Musical Weekend: ‘Finland Awakes’
by John J. Davis

Edward W. Clark assesses Sibelius’s reputation

Rewriting History
Edward W. Clark defends Sibelius against a challenge from America

Impressions of the Fourth International Jean Sibelius Conference
John Grimshaw reports from Texas

The Minpins
Review by Edward W. Clark

A Star is Risen
Was Sibelius the last of the Romantics? Edward W. Clark considers
From being acutely aware of his position and responsibility as a Finnish artist in a wider Europe, Sibelius eventually discarded this cloak of expectation in favour of his own trail, exploring the writing of symphonies. No one pursued this goal in so single-minded a fashion as did Sibelius (although almost everyone of any note in the twentieth century has attempted to do so). The final achievements were the Seventh Symphony and its mirror image, Tapiola, two works similar in duration and aspiration but utterly different in layout and content. These two works define Sibelius’s contribution to the future of music and look ahead, rather than summarize the past. It is an understanding of this important fact that allows acknowledgement of Sibelius’s star still being firmly in the ascendant and, I think, rising still further in the minds of most musicians and music lovers.

There Is Always Hope
Edward W. Clark reflects on overexposure to Sibelius’s music

Sibelius’s Shadow
Edward W. Clark wonders why 10% of Sibelius’s work obscures the remaining 90%

Sealions and Seascapes
Edward W. Clark discusses The Oceanides in the context of the Boxing Day tsunami

Lahti 2004: Looking Back
Concert retrospective by Janet Abbotts

The Mystery of the Seventh Symphony’s Finnish première
Edward W. Clark considers why Sibelius’s last symphony had to wait so long for its first Finnish performance

At the Sydney Sibelius Festival with Complications
Report on a major Sibelius event in Australia by Geoff Hayes

From Eternity to Here
Sibelius, Beethoven and timelessness – by Denys J. Corrigan

In Search of Jean Sibelius
‘The Formative Experiences of a Hero-Worshipper’, by Stephen Williams
One has to recognize that one’s childhood recollections can be misleading, but it is my firm belief that my earliest musical memories are of two pieces of music. I further believe that I heard them both on the Tannoy system of the then nearly-new Owen Owen department store in Coventry in about 1939, a building later totally destroyed in the Blitz of November 1940. Which did I hear first? Was it Flanagan and Allen singing Any Umbrellas?, or was it the Alla Marcia from Sibelius’s Karelia Suite? In the sixty-five years that have since elapsed I have singularly failed to become a Bud(ding) Flanagan, but there is little doubt that I found myself to be a budding Sibelian as I grew into maturity. In that toddler’s imagination the Alla Marcia became a reindeer-drawn sleigh galloping through snow-laden wastes. That same toddler, though, would have been astonished to think that he might one day grow up actually to conduct the music of his hero Sibelius.

Sibelius’s ‘English’ Symphony
Peter Frankland discusses Sibelius’s Third Symphony

Sibelius connections with the North Staffordshire Symphony Orchestra
by Janet Abbotts

Newsletter 58 (December 2005)

Alan Hovhaness and Sibelius
by Alan Senior

Creativity and the ‘Potential Space’ in the work of Jean Sibelius and Alvar Aalto
Feature article by Sarah Menin

Jean Sibelius · Complete Works (JSW)
Recent additions to the series reviewed by Andrew G. Barnett

The Symphonic Poems of Sibelius: A New Track in the Sombre Forest
by Michael G. Heenan [originally published in 1950]
‘The complete world of the Sibelian symphonies is reflected in that of the symphonic poems; if Sibelius had written nothing else the whole depth and breadth of his mind would still be seen. As in the First and Second Symphonies so in Pohjola’s Daughter we may see the romantic brilliance and the occasional preoccupation with technique which are typical of their time; in the Third Symphony so in Night Ride and Sunrise: a clear-cut, diatonic and essentially classical simplicity and directness; in the Fourth Symphony so in The Bard; a compression and bareness so extreme as to make these two works incomprehensible without careful study; in the Sixth Symphony so in The Oceanides and Tapiola: an understanding of nature which goes very much deeper than the perfunctory rusticism of most forest murmurers; and in the Seventh Symphony so in Tapiola and Luonnotar a mastery and assurance so complete as to place these three works together in a position seldom reached by any composer.’

‘And deeper than did ever plummet sound’ – The Sibelius Symphonies, Lahti 2005
Festival review by Edward W. Clark

A Youth Orchestra Meets the Music of Jean Sibelius
A conductor’s viewpoint by Stephen Williams

An excerpt from the novel ‘The Seven Symphonies: A Finnish Murder Mystery’
by Simon Boswell

An Inexplicable Inspiration
The composer Arthur Butterworth examines his fascination with Sibelius’s music
I was in a noisy, rowdy canteen surrounded by dozens of other young men and, dimly in the background, the radio could be heard. It was a programme very familiar and regular in the early 1940s – ‘These you have loved’ introduced by Doris Arnold, whose alluring, mellifluous voice was utterly captivating. One piece of music, quiet, mysterious, mesmerizing, held me in a kind of spellbound trance (and this despite the clatter of cups, the raucous shouting all around); when it was finished she said: ‘That was The Swan of Tuonela by Sibelius’… That was something of a turning point in my musical life.

Bernstein’s Sibelius
A highly individual view of Sibelius, discussed by Peter Frankland

Newsletter 59 (June 2006)

An in-depth look at Sibelius’s most famous tone poem by Harri Miettunen
Finlandia is one of the best known works of Jean Sibelius. It is a favourite with audiences all over the world, yet not very highly respected among music scholars and critics. It has been completely overshadowed by the symphonies in Sibelius scholarship. The importance of Finlandia is usually seen in its programme, the depiction of national awakening and the hopes and desires for freedom of a small nation… A closer look at Finlandia reveals highly interesting structural features that appear almost throughout Sibelius’s entire output. The most important observation is that Finlandia is from start to finish based on variations of a single motif… The motif is a four-note cell consisting of three adjacent tones. It is most apparent in the opening of the hymn section: a step down from the central note and back, and a step up.

Suffer or Celebrate
The bond between Sibelius’ss sound world and our emotional response, discussed by Edward W. Clark

Sibelius’s Second Symphony Revisited
Steven Strach takes a new look at one of Sibelius’s most popular works

Sibelius and Shostakovich
Compared and contrasted by Edward W. Clark

Meeting a Grand-daughter of Sibelius
Geoff Hayes meets Satu Jalas Risito

Hope, Despair, Tragedy
What links Sibelius to General Custer? Edward W. Clark investigates

The Ages of Man
Feature article by Edward W. Clark
Various labels have been attached to periods of Sibelius’s creative life. These include ‘Nationalistic’ (to 1902), ‘Classical’ (1905 to 1912) and ‘Universal’ (1915 onwards). Recent writings and research can now surely point to new labels that illuminate Sibelius’s music in a most interesting way… I define three periods as ‘Religious’ (1902 to 1910), ‘Pantheistic’ (1915 to 1919) and ‘Tragic’ (1920 onwards).

Sibelius at the Barbican
Concert reviews by John Peregrine

Newsletter 60 (December 2006)

Mr Sibelius, I presume – When Gustav Mahler Met Jean Sibelius
Antti Vihinen examines the true nature of the relationship between these two composers, and Mahler’s visit to Helsinki in 1907
In my personal view, Gustav Mahler and Jean Sibelius are both (and equally) unrivalled 20th-century masters of the great European musical tradition. There may be major æsthetic differences between them, but this fact makes their music even more interesting to me. It is a great pity that these two composers and their ‘fans’ are so often seen as ‘enemies’ and divided into two hostile groups. After all, both composers created fantastic music… Sometimes when I walk in Helsinki’s Kaivopuisto, the park where a century ago Mahler and Sibelius presumably had their walks too, I can hear them talking behind the white stems of the birch-trees. And I do not hear a hostile debate, but a conversation between two eternal masters who respect each other.

Ainola, a portrait and extracts from a journal 1998-2006
Janet Abbotts vists Sibelius’s home in Järvenpää

Sibelius and John Foulds: a Brief Encounter
by Alan Senior

Jean Sibelius and Rabindranath Tagore:
A Poet-Musician and a Musician-Poet of Nature

Feature article by Charles Gordon-Graham
I would like to look at the composer Jean Sibelius in relation to an Asian contemporary of his, namely the Bengali writer Rabindranath Tagore. At first sight this might seem a strange choice, incongruous some might say, but I shall try to show that there is a fertile and meaningful confluence between Finland’s most famous composer and the first Asian to win the Nobel Prize for literature – and not merely because one is my favourite classical composer and the other my favourite poet!

Korpo and Karelia · An ‘escapade’
Reminiscences of a memorable trip to Finland, by John J. Davis

Sibelius, Elgar and Wives
Feature article by John Grimshaw
Three north European composers, each generally regarded as his country’s greatest, have anniversaries in 2007; Elgar who was born in 1857, Grieg who died in 1907, and Sibelius of course who died in 1957. All three had their roots in the romantic era. Sibelius and Grieg have often been linked, their works seen as embodying the musical culture of nations on Europe’s nordic fringe. But what about Sibelius and our compatriot, Elgar? Surely this is the moment to point out the many quite extraordinary parallels in their lives and their musical output.

Journey into Darkness
Peter Frankland discusses Sibelius’s Fourth Symphony