Sibelius Symphony 2

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Sibelius Symphony 2 Program Notes

Sibelius Symphony 2 displays the same elemental pagan strength in that is apparent in all of Sibelius’s writing, and since his own nation was often struggling against opposition, his depiction of Finnish legends, sagas, and rawness of its nature, allowed him to become the undisputed Finnish musical representative as the nation became independent around the time of the collapse of Russia’s empire in 1917.
Despite the fact that most of the Sibelius Symphony 2 was written in a comparatively balmy Italian climate in 1902, it displays well all of the aforementioned characteristics. The first movement is in relatively conventional sonata form, but the presentation of the material is unorthodox. Particularly noteworthy is the principal theme of the second subject group which has three “Sibelian” fingerprints: first the long, sustained opening note, then the slow trill, and finally the descending interval of a fifth, which is to prove to be a germinal motive throughout the symphony. There is no coda, but the movement ends as it began with the introductory figure which acted as a prelude to the first main theme.
The second movement begins in a more somber manner, with a rising/falling passage on pizzicato basses, the mood becoming more tense and excited as strings and horns join in. After a climax followed by a silent pause a broad melody is given to the strings, which are richly divided into ten parts, in which the alternating natural and augmented fourth provides another Sibelius fingerprint. There is a brief and highly dramatic coda, in which somber thematic fragments are interspersed by savage trills in the woodwind and a rushing passage for the strings.
The Scherzo, a moto perpetuo, is followed by a contrasting Trio, which opens with a lyrical tune on the oboe. Scherzo and Trio are heard again, and a gradually mounting climax foreshadows the broad, triumphant melody that dominates the finale. This magnificent melodic paean covers a span of forty-four measures, during half of which there is a remarkable pedal bass of D – C sharp.
Towards the end of the development section, the opening half-notes of the principal theme build to a climax, heralding the recapitulation, in which the principal theme is announced against a quarter note figure in the woodwind. The second subject appears in the tonic minor, but soon blazes into the major to introduce the short coda which supplies a magnificent ending to the whole symphony. Sibelius was capable of providing an epic ending with nothing of self-consciousness or bravado in its grandiose strength; the Finns themselves regard this movement as symbolizing the triumph of their national aspirations. Certainly, the wide expressive range of this symphony, from its pastoral opening to its thrilling conclusion, ranks as one of Sibelius’s greatest achievements.
Adapted from notes by Richard Thompson, Brandon Hill Chamber Orchestra of Bristol, UK.

Jean Sibelius (1865-1957)- Symphony 2 in D Major, Op. 43

  1. Allegretto
  2. Tempo Andante, ma rubato
  3. Vivacissimo – 
  4. Finale: Allegro moderato

Born: December 8, 1865, Hämeenlinna, Finland

Died: September 20, 1957, Ainola, Järvenpää, Finland

Categories: Program Notes