As with very many (perhaps too many) things in my life, it all began with Sibelius. During my undergraduate degree I had discovered Sibelius’s symphonies and, after some soul-searching, decided that I loved this music enough to pursue a Masters on Sibelius, and try to build an academic career studying Nordic music. I threw myself... Continue Reading →
Aarre Merikanto (1893-1958) has a hugely varied body of works, spanning a forty-year-long career. As the son of a successful composer (Oskar Merikanto) and working at the same time as Sibelius in Finland’s culturally conservative atmosphere, he struggled for a long time to find his own compositional voice. He’s often described as Finland’s first modernist,... Continue Reading →
Sibelius looms large over Finnish music. Particularly as far as UK performances of Finnish music go, it’s Sibelius’s name that’s front and centre. But there’s a wealth of music from both Finland and Sweden written by Sibelius’s contemporaries that deserves to be heard. When Sibelius was alive Nordic composition was thriving. We know Sibelius as... Continue Reading →
This year I have the pleasure of introducing Sibelius's Fifth Symphony at the Proms. The performance is on the 13th August, in a programme with Grieg's Piano Concerto and Arvo Pärt's Third Symphony. If you'd like to join me for my introduction, the talk is free and begins at 17.45 at the Imperial College Union.... Continue Reading →
Earlier in the week I was lucky enough to see Sakari Oramo perform Sibelius's Second and Seventh Symphonies, with the incomparable Anu Komsi singing Luonnotar and Ekho by Aarre Merikanto. During the interval I talked to Martin Handley about Luonnotar and Scaramouche, and the role that they play in Sibelius's stylistic experimentation. You can hear the whole concert and our... Continue Reading →
As part of the coverage of the Finnish Independence anniversary this year, I'll be cropping up across the BBC talking about Sibelius. The first couple of instalments are up now - the first is a clip discussing how Sibelius's theatre music relates to his wider output: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p05hdg06 If 10 minutes is just too long, then... Continue Reading →
I'm absolutely delighted to have been awarded the Observer/Anthony Burgess Prize for Arts Journalism 2015, for an essay on Jean Sibelius's theatre music. The article was a review of a concert given by Pia Freund and Ismo Eskelinen at the Swedish Church in London, performing songs by Sibelius and John Dowland. It can be found... Continue Reading →
Absolutely delighted to have been shortlisted for the Observer/Anthony Burgess Prize for Arts Journalism 2016! The shortlisting is for an article on Pia Freund and Ismo Eskelinen's performance of Sibelius songs for the 'Alternative Sibelius' series last year. The full shortlist is online here.
Review of Oxford University Philharmonia’s Christmas concert, featuring music by Sibelius, Nielsen, and Arvo Pärt.
2015 has seen the Nordic composers Jean Sibelius and Carl Nielsen dominate concert programmes across the UK. They both celebrated their 150th birthdays this year, along with the Russian composer Alexander Glazunov (who seems to have been largely forgotten). The sounds of their music opened the Proms, whilst the Royal Festival Hall hosted a Sibelius symphony cycle conducted by Simon Rattle, and the Barbican did the same with Nielsen under the baton of Sakari Oramo. Oxford University Philharmonia’s latest concert at the Sheldonian contributed to these anniversary celebrations, offering an ambitious programme of Sibelius’s Fifth and Seventh symphonies, alongside Nielsen’s Saga-drøm and Arvo Pärt’s Cantus in memoriam Benjamin Britten. This was a somewhat predictable combination (where are the more unusual scores like Sibelius’s Scaramouche in the anniversary celebrations?), but the material was for the most part handled admirably by the orchestra and conductor John Warner.
The concert opened…
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