This year the Finnish Cultural Institute for the Benelux celebrates the 150th anniversary of the birth of composer Jean Sibelius in various ways. In the programme we will highlight different sides of the composer’s work: besides symphony concerts and some of Europe’s best chamber musicians, also surprising examples will be offered on how Sibelius’s legacy has been passed on to today’s new creative talents in different fields.
Sibelius’s importance for Finland is unquestionable, but like many other artists of his time, Sibelius lived and worked foremost as a European artist on our common continent – decades before anyone could even dream about the EU, the EC or even the Benelux Union. Sibelius spent long periods of his life in Berlin, Vienna, Paris and Italy and on his concert tour in 1900 also walked the streets of Brussels, Rotterdam, Amsterdam and The Hague. Now, 150 years after his birth, his music is played all over the world and his violin concertos are the most widely performed and recorded of all the concertos composed in the 20th century.
Sibelius’s compositions have left a permanent mark on the history of music. Best known among his extensive production are his symphonies and other large-scale orchestral works, but acquaintance with his solos, choir compositions and other chamber music works is also well worthwhile. “It doesn’t matter what music you play as long as you do it well”, Sibelius is told to have remarked when he heard a relative complain about a child’s enthusiasm for jazz. The composer, who drew on folk music and different arts, left a legacy that has inspired creativity in all its diversity from one generation to another.
It has been said that Sibelius’s music does not principally reach out towards the world, depict nature and its stateliness. Instead, his works find their way to people’s innermost feelings, giving a voice to how the experience of nature moves the human soul. Nature probably was the most central source of inspiration for Sibelius. This is what we especially want to draw into attention by bringing a Jean and Aino Sibelius memorial birch from a patch of forest by Sibelius’s home, Ainola, to grow in Brussels.
Jean Sibelius died at his home on 20 September 1957. The UN General Assembly honoured him with a moment of silence and the Chairman of that assembly, Sir Leslie Munro, commemorated him with the words: “Sibelius belonged to the whole world. He enriched the life of the entire human race with his music.”
You will find the programme for the entire anniversary year at: sibelius150.org/fi
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