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Thread: Sibelius's first symphony

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    Senior Member Saturnus's Avatar
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    Default Sibelius's first symphony

    This is a symphony I like a lot, though it is a first symphony and lacks a bit of continuity (like most 1st symphonies). But there is one thing that is driving me mad.

    In the middle of the first movement, the woodwinds start weaving a very interesting theme. Each woodwind soloist starts sepparately with a long crescending note that breaks into a chromatic scale going downwards diminuending, it sounds like it is leading the symphony to a very interesting spot, but then suddenly the triumphant theme with the brass (that has been played over and over again in the first half of the movement) schizophrenically bursts out! This sounds like the most exciting part of the symphony has been cut out from the score.

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    Senior Member Kurkikohtaus's Avatar
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    What the hell... is everybody else afraid to answer this post? I let it sit for a few days to see what you all had to say... since there are no takers, here goes:

    This "interesting theme" is the Closing (3rd) Theme of the sonata. The instance you seem to be referring to is occurence of the Closing Theme in the Recapitulation. To understand why the "triumphant" theme in the brass comes in the way it does, we have to take a look at the first occurence of the closing theme (in the Exposition). We will then discover the contrast that Sibelius creates in his resolution of the Exposition Closing vs. the Recapitulation Closing.

    In the Exposition, the Closing Theme rides along over an F# pedal... it resolves in an unexpectedly simple way by ending quite suddenly on unison B, pizzicato in the strings. After a few of these pizzicatos, the mvmt immediately moves into the Development section, which explores all the motives from the Exposition and their harmonic possibilities.

    In the Recapitulation, this same Closing Theme rides along over B pedal, resolving therefore in E minor, the home key. This arrival of E minor and the "Triumphant" brass theme, is in effect the end of the piece, the Coda.

    So as the end of the Exposition's Closing led to the Development, the end of the Recapitulation's Closing leads to the Coda, with the implicit harmonic function and resolution of each section creating the structural separations.
    Last edited by Kurkikohtaus; Jun-09-2007 at 13:03.

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    Senior Member Edward Elgar's Avatar
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    I've only recently got into Sibelius symphonies. I have fallen in love with the 2nd and 5th, but I need guidance as to which other symphonies I should listen to. I will look out for the 1st.
    When all the paint has been dried, when all the stone has been carved, music shall remain, and we shall work with what remains.

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    Senior Member Kurkikohtaus's Avatar
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    Certainly the 1st is "easiest" to digest in terms of its Romantic roots.

    The third is a wonderful essay in NeoClassicism 2 decades before the term was even coined...

    Hardcore Sibelius fans love the 4th, but it is rather dire... save it for later.

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    1 & 3 seem to be my favorites lately. i've always felt that sibelius often enjoyed putting a tease in your ear. just listen and enjoy, he's having fun.

    dj

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    Ive also listened through all his symphonies and the First, Second, Third and Sixth seem to "stick" in memory the most -- at least for me. Although, the finale to the Fifth is quite unforgettable, also.

    While on the topic of Sibelius, I have found what seems to be the best recording [Ive ever heard] of Finlandia: Lorin Maazel and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. What really moved me on this particular recording was his choice of tight, yet modest, tempo in the middle section (the sixteenth notes with the trumpets at the opening of it seem to drag at slower tempos) and, most of all, at the last section, following the choral, right after the crescendo with the crash symbols he does a sudden (subito) diminuendo where the arpeggios played by the strings can be heard which I think to be sublime! Ive never heard this done before in any other recording. Is this a unique interpretation or has it been performed previously?

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    Junior Member music17's Avatar
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    I absolutely love the Sibelius first symphony. Our orchestra played it a couple of years ago. There is a large harp part, but most of the time, you cannot hear it. As a harpist, I was glad I had something to do for most of the forty (or so) minutes.

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    Senior Member Kurkikohtaus's Avatar
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    There is a sublime part for the harp right before the closing theme in the recapitulation, 2 simple arpeggios over a sustained note... I cannot imagine the piece without it.

    Unfortunately, it is the very inclusion of the harp that prevents smaller orchestras (mine included) from playing this work.

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    Senior Member ChamberNut's Avatar
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    Last night, I went to a performance of Sibelius' 1st symphony. I really enjoyed it. I think I enjoyed it a bit more than the 5th symphony performance I heard last year.

    Kurkikohtaus, I have a question. In the 1st movement of Symphony 1 (and what a fantastic 1st movement it is by the way!), there is a passage (I'm not sure if it is part of the string section or not), but it is somewhere in the middle of the movement, that was almost like a droning hiss or hum that sounded like a cold blustery wind, like you would hear if you were indoors but heard a very gusty wind that was occurring outdoors. Were my ears deceiving me?

    This symphony definitely had a "mood" to it, a Northern mood to it, and I felt it since Manitoba's climate is similar to Finland's.

    This symphony has a great feel to it certainly. It has piqued my interest in Sibelius' symphonies.

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    Senior Member Kurkikohtaus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ChamberNut View Post
    This symphony definitely had a "mood" to it, a Northern mood to it, and I felt it since Manitoba's climate is similar to Finland's.
    Coming from Winterpeg, you would certainly know. I spent a year in Winnipeg one February... (I'm originally from Toronto, in case you didn't know)

    As far as the section of the 1st movement to which you are referring, give me a day or so on that, I'll get back to you. Don't have my score here right now and can't seem to think of the passage you're talking about. I'll be in touch.

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    Junior Member cjr3559's Avatar
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    When I was in high school, I was infatuated with Symphony #2. After hearing it, I began to listen to the rest of the symphonies. I believe #5 was next, then #1, then #4, #3, #6, and finally #7.

    Of all of them, #2 is still my favorite, but I learned that I needed to listen to it a bit more sparingly, as it was getting a little tired.

    As for #1, it reminds me a little bit of Tchaikovsky, but most composers emulate other masters before their true style comes out. In the case of Symphony #1, the style of Sibelius is evident, however.

    For what it's worth, my current favorite Sibelius work is the Violin Concerto.

    (is it me, or is the word "symphony" hard to type?)

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    Senior Member ChamberNut's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kurkikohtaus View Post
    Coming from Winterpeg, you would certainly know. I spent a year in Winnipeg one February... (I'm originally from Toronto, in case you didn't know)

    As far as the section of the 1st movement to which you are referring, give me a day or so on that, I'll get back to you. Don't have my score here right now and can't seem to think of the passage you're talking about. I'll be in touch.

    What were you doing in Winnipeg? You came at the coldest time, that's for sure.

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