Sibelius Rakastava Program Notes
This three-movement work for string orchestra, timpani and triangle, began life as an unaccompanied work for men’s choir, entered in the 1893 University of Helsinki choral competition. For a text, Sibelius chose three poems from the Kanteletar, a book of Finnish-language folk poetry collected by Elias Lönnrot decades earlier. A Finnish-language book was a bold statement at the time: from the Middle Ages, Finland had been part of Sweden, then from 1809, Russia. Like most of the population, Sibelius actually grew up speaking Swedish. His studies took him to Berlin and Vienna, where he began exploring Finnish legends and poetry. In 1891, he had written to his proudly nationalist fiancé, Aino Järnefelt, that he felt Finnish traditions were represented in folk music, and of a …sonorous, remarkably melancholy monotony in all Finnish melodies.dzIn Rakastava (The Lovers), the first song asks the question where is my beloved? describing the joy the poet would feel if his beloved were approaching, and how nature’s silence would come to life. The second describes places: clearings, a boulder, heather, the forest, where the beloved had been, and which are fairer from her presence. The third and final song is Good evening, and farewell. They embrace, kiss, and the poet bids his beloved good night. Sibelius reworked the piece for different forces, including mixed choir and strings, and this final, instrumental version is from 1911.