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Jean Sibelius

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Jean Sibelius


Johan Julius Christian Sibelius (8 December 1865, Hämeenlinna, Finland – 20 September 1957, Ainola, Finland) was a Finnish composer of the late Romantic period. His music played an important role in the formation of the Finnish national identity. Although Finnish by birth, his first language remained Swedish all his life. Romantic Nationalism was to become a crucial element in Sibelius' artistic output and his political leanings.

From around the age of 15, he set his heart on becoming a great violin virtuoso, and he did become quite an accomplished player of the instrument, even publicly performing the last two movements of the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto in Helsinki.

After Sibelius graduated from high school in 1885, he began to study law at the Imperial Alexander University of Finland (now the University of Helsinki). However, he was more interested in music than in law, and he soon quit his studies. From 1885 to 1889 Sibelius studied music in the Helsinki music school (now the Sibelius Academy). Sibelius continued studying in Berlin (from 1889 to 1890 with Albert Becker) and in Vienna (from 1890 to 1891). It was around this time that he finally abandoned his cherished violin playing aspirations: "It was a very painful awakening when I had to admit that I had begun my training for the exacting career of a virtuoso too late".

The core of Sibelius's oeuvre is his set of seven symphonies. Like Beethoven, Sibelius used each successive work to further develop his own personal compositional style. His works continue to be performed frequently in the concert hall and are often recorded.

In addition to the symphonies, Sibelius's best-known compositions include Finlandia, the Karelia Suite, Valse triste, the Violin Concerto in D minor and The Swan of Tuonela (one of the four movements of the Lemminkäinen Suite). Other works include pieces inspired by the Finnish national epic, the Kalevala; over 100 songs for voice and piano; incidental music for 13 plays; the opera Jungfrun i tornet (The Maiden in the Tower); chamber music; piano music; Masonic ritual music; and 21 separate publications of choral music.

Sibelius composed prolifically until the mid-1920s. However, after completing his Seventh Symphony (1924), the incidental music to The Tempest (1926), and the tone poem Tapiola (1926), he produced no large scale works for the remaining thirty years of his life.

The Finnish 100 mark bill featured his image until it was taken out of circulation in 2002. Since 2011, Finland celebrates a Flag Day on 8 December, the composer's birthday, also known as the 'Day of Finnish Music'.

Works for Winds


  • Genevro, Bradley J. "Preludio." In Teaching Music through Performance in Band. Volume 9, edit. & comp. by Richard Miles, 391-395. Chicago: GIA Publications, 2013.
  • Jean Sibelius, Wikipedia