This acclaimed study, available in English for the first time, looks at the music of Jean Sibelius in its biographical context.
Myths have surrounded Sibelius [1865-1957] and his work, for more than 100 years, often diverting attention away from his creative output. Drawing on many unpublished sources, Mäkelä's study leads us back to Sibelius as a musician and a 'poet' of universal validity.
Chapters examine the composer's creativity, inspiration, influence, aspects of genre, as well as the relationship of the artist with nature and homeland.
Those who knew Sibelius at an early age tell of a youthful bohemian in the midst of European decadence. This 'age of Carmen' [Eduard Munch] marked Sibelius's formative years. The composer's most important works, dating from a time between his third symphony and Tapiola, reflect the modernistic mainstream. Sibelius's last three decades, known as the 'Silence of Ainola', have inspired the masculine clichés that this book deconstructs.
Sibelius was one of the least political artists of his time who nevertheless became heavily politicized. The first supreme musical talent in the region, he gave his nation a genuine sound. Europeans of the late nineteenth century showed increasing affinity with Nordic culture. Aino, Sibelius's wife, was instrumental in creating the image of her husband as a Nordic icon. The book closely scrutinizes this popular image.
In an Anglo-American artistic context his mix of regionalism and modernity remained attractive even when these elements went out of fashion in the art movement of continental Europe. Ideas of Finland and the North vastly influenced the interpretation of meaning in Sibelius's music, a music that until this day remains enigmatic.
TOMI MÄKELÄ is the author of several books and essays on Finnish music, Romanticism, and Western modernism. From 1996-2008 he was professor of music in Magdeburg. Since 2009 he has been professor of music at the Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg.
The attempt to draw a complete picture is carried out impressively, with a critical basis that is seldom present in such portraits. KLASSISK MUSIKKMAGASIN
[C]arefully details Sibelius's life and provides a richly painted portrait of the world around the composer. [...] will be a source for Sibelius scholars for many years to come. [...] Recommended. CHOICE
[W]ith its exhaustive archival underpinning and determination not to short-circuit complex issues, the book is unlikely to be challenged [...] for quite some time. MUSICAL TIMES
Tomi Mäkelä has assembled a vast amount of referential material [...] free from stridency and polemic, keen to raise questions [...] and genuinely interested in an enthralling subject. I found myself responding with increasing pleasure and respect. BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE [Malcolm Hayes]
Mäkelä provides thought-provoking historical and cultural insights. His exceptionally thorough research draws on a wide range of source materials that is wider than usual, including some rarely tapped sources close to Sibelius himself. UK SIBELIUS SOCIETY NEWSLETTER
Mäkelä is creating a notably elaborate artistic and intellectual context in which to assess Sibelius's unique - 'visionary, ecstatic, imagination based' - creative urge. CLASSICAL MUSIC