Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Missing Sibelius 8 found?

Did parts of Sibelius Symphony no 8 escape the flames at Ainola ? There's plenty of evidence that Sibelius did write something, but being a perfectionist who'd suppressed his own work before, he kept the details to himself. Read the evidence in Kari Kilpeläinen's 1995 article in The Finnish Music Quarterly.  Something went into the fire, but Sibelius couldn't burn what was not to hand.

On 14/11/11 this article appeared in the Helsingin Sanomat : Sibelius's letters unearthed from document case.  The granddaughter of the woman who inherited music copyist Paul Voigt's personal effects contacted Helsingin Sanomat" It's by Vesa Sirén, long-term Sibelius scholar, who's written about Sibelius as conductor. Voigt was Sibelius's copyist and it's known that he had a "cardboard box filled with music" stored away. More background HERE

Two weeks ago, Sirén wrote about attempts to perform what material that might exist. "Is this the sound of Sibelius's lost 8th Symphony?" (this is the article Sirén sent to Alex Ross). The sound clip is HERE  It's in Finnish, but the music starts 2 minutes in and ends at 4.45.

 "Incredible. Even the dissonant intervals in the horns have a sensual clarity to them", says a stunned Timo Virtanen (editor of the Sibelius Critical Edition). Adds Sirén "The music is strange, powerful, and with daring, spicy harmonies - a step into the new even after Tapiola and the music for The Tempest."

This ties in with  Kari Kilpeläinen's speculation about what might have made Sibelius so cagey about letting the symphony be seen by others.

"It appears from certain late works that Sibelius stood on the brink of a new stylistic era after the 7th Symphony, Tapiola and the Tempest music. This is particularly marked in the opus 114 work for piano (1929), in which he seemed to be progressing towards a more abstract idiom: clear, ethereal images little touched by the human passions.... If the Opus 114 piano pieces are abstractions of this world, the Funeral (op111b) is by comparison like a study of the other world - strange, inexplicable, unconditional yet not frightening. It has been suggested that the Funeral is based on a theme from the 8th symphony, and Aino Sibelius admitted that this might be so. Did the new symphony thus also represent a modern sound unlike that of his previous style, with bleak, open tones and unresolved dissonances?"

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