Season after Pentecost, 2023
Today is the 141st birthday of Finnish composer Jean Sibelius
Sibelius once said: "Never pay any attention to the critics. No one ever made a statue of a critic."
Now my head is lifted up
above my enemies all around me,
and I will offer in his tent
sacrifices with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make melody to the Lord.
Sibelius's birth and music send us an Advent message of hope and transcendence. Except for the Eighth Symphony, which sends us a message of despair and fiery destruction.
Let me explain. Sibelius wrote seven numbered symphonies and complete his eighth, but it was never performed. Something got the better of him one night (probably alcohol), and he threw it into the fire.
The only scrap of the work that remains is preserved in a little piece he wrote for a friend's funeral in 1931: Surusoitto, Op. 111b.
Sibelius was in the business of redefining what the symphony was. In fact, he was reshaping the logic of music itself. His circular, stream of consciousness kind of writing had an inner logic that was very personal to him. It spoke of the world, and pointed beyond it.
If you are lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the Eighth through Surusoitto, you are listening to the work of a mature master composer.
I will even go so far as to say you can hear what it sounds like to ache for redemption, for a savior, for love.
Happy birthday Jean!
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