Compact Discoveries®
a series of one-hour radio programs produced, written, hosted, and edited
by Fred Flaxman

©2015 by Fred Flaxman

Program 248
"Sibelius at 150, Part 2"

: Sibelius: excerpt from Karelia Suite, Op. 11, first movement, Intermezzo, performed by the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sir Colin Davis [RCA BMG 0 9026-68770-2 7 Track 1]  [under the following]

Hello and welcome to Compact Discoveries. I’m your guide, Fred Flaxman. Stay with me for the next hour and we’ll listen to music by Jean Sibelius which is still greatly loved and often played 150 years after his birth in Finland on December 8, 1865. This program, number 248, will include his entire Second Symphony, and, of course, it simply has to end with Finlandia. Program 247 included Sibelius’s Violin Concerto, The Swan of Tuonela, and Valse Triste. If you missed that program, or would like to hear it again, you can stream it on demand at

MUSIC: Fades out

Sibelius could not get the orchestral training he so desired in Helsinki, so, armed with names and a letter of introduction to Brahms from Busoni, one of his teachers at the conservatory, Sibelius left Helsinki for Vienna. The meeting with the cantankerous old Brahms did not materialize, so Sibelius studied instead with Robert Fuchs, a follower of Brahms.

The core of Sibelius’s work is his set of seven symphonies, which came starting with the new century in 1900. The Second is the best known of these, and the most-often recorded and performed. It was written in 1901, at which time Finland’s most influential critic was absolutely rhapsodic about the new work. “We have never before heard a composition like Jean Sibelius’s Second Symphony,” he wrote. “We have scarcely ever heard anything comparable to it in the genre of the modern symphony, and the more often one hears this highly gifted work, the more one is impressed with its contours, the more profound seams its spiritual content.…”

We hear Sibelius’s Second Symphony now performed on a Telarc stereo CD from 2002 with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra conducted by Paavo Järvi.

MUSIC: Sibelius: Symphony No. 2 in D Major, performed by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra conducted by Paavo Järvi [Telarc].  [44:28]

The Symphony No. 2 in D Major by Jean Sibelius. The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra was conducted by Paavo Järvi.

Sibelius’s most famous tone poem, Finlandia, was written in 1899 and revised a year later. It was composed for the Press Celebrations of 1899, a covert protest against increasing censorship from the Russian Empire, of which Finland at the time was a most reluctant part.

In order to avoid Russian censorship, Finlandia had to be performed under alternative names at various musical concerts. For example, the piece was called Happy Feelings at the awakening of Finnish Spring, for one concert, and A Scandinavian Choral March for another.

In this 1981 London  compact disc recording, Vladimir Ashkenazy conducts the Philharmonia Orchestra.

MUSIC: Sibelius: Finlandia. Vladimir Ashkenazy conducts the Philharmonia Orchestra. [London 400 056-2, Track 6]  [7:56]

Jean Sibelius’s Finlandia. Vladimir Ashkenazy conducted the Philharmonia Orchestra.

And that concludes “Jean Sibelius at 150” on this hour of Compact Discoveries. If you missed part of the program or would like to hear it again, you can stream it on demand at This is program number 248.

My thanks to Jack Brin for inspiring this program and for supplying some of the research on Sibelius’s life that I used.* This is your guide to Compact Discoveries, Fred Flaxman. Thank you for listening.

ANNOUNCER (Tana Flaxman): Production of Compact Discoveries is made possible in part by an anonymous donor from Palm Beach, Florida... and by the financial support of Isabel and Marvin Leibowitz…  Art and Eva Stevens... Shelley and Gilbert Harrison… the CD companies that supply the recordings used…  and  the online store for classical music CDs, DVDs, downloads, and over 10,000 on-demand reissued titles.

Program Ends at 59:00

*Much of the information came from an audio-visual biography of Sibelius created almost 40 years ago by my friend Jack Brin.