Second Symphony Of Sibelius Rated His Most PopularThe music of Finland's greatest composer, Jean Sibelius, traveled beyond his native land to rapt attention in the United States during the 1940s. Many of the world's renowned conductors, such as Sergei Koussevitsky, Eugene Ormandy, Artur Rodzinski and Leopold Stokowski, enthusiastically played Sibelius' works as if they were competing with each other to see who could honor the composer more often..
Sibelius' music was fervently nationalistic, inspired by ancient Finnish epics, and the composer's international popularity grew when Finland battled the Soviet Union in World War II. An advocate of Finnish independence from czarist Russia, Sibelius was a heroic figure in his native country.
After his death in 1957, his music experienced a rebirth in the 1970s, when many orchestras began to list his works in their main repertoire.
Of the seven symphonies composed by Sibelius between 1899 and 1924, "Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 43," is the most popular. The work was composed in typical Romantic style, expressing various themes with economy and precision. Rich melodies run through the symphony like water rapids, and the passionate chorus of woodwind and brass instruments imbues the work with a certain restlessness.
Its sad yet beautiful melodies reflect the joys and sorrows of the Finnish people. The symphony combines musical depth, a nationalistic character and splendid orchestration, leaving the listener thrilled.
This second symphony had its premiere in Helsinki in 1902 and was conducted by the composer himself. Both the symphony and "Finlandia," Sibelius' rousing symphonic poem of nationalistic reawakening, are considered canon works in Finnish music.
John Barbirolli, the former musical director of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra who succeeded Arturo Toscanini, recorded the famous symphony four times. The most well-known of the four interpretations is the one with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra recorded on the Chesky label.
However, the recording is quite rare and difficult to find on the market. Fortunately for listeners, Barbirolli's recording of the symphony with the Halle Orchestra in Manchester, England, is just as enjoyable and much easier to find.
Barbirolli grasps the the conductor's reins and controls the smooth tempo of the piece with confidence. In 1966, he recorded and produced all seven of Sibelius' symphonies with EMI Classics, including the second symphony recorded in Manchester.
After listening to the grand climax in the fourth movement of the symphony, fans will agree that Sibelius' musical landscape reaches the heights of ecstasy.
by Lee Jang-jik