Saturday, November 19, 2011

Be The First To Hear The Holy Grail of Classical Music -- The Legendary "Lost" Eighth Symphony of Jean Sibelius


One of the newly classified manuscripts of  legendary conductor Jean Sibelius
I am still reeling from learning this information tonight.

In fact, I have been thinking of writing a novel about this for the past few years. I discussed it with Jago this week.

Sketches from Finnish composer Jean Sibelius legendary "lost" 8th Symphony, believed burned in a fireplace in a fit of depression by the legendary composer in 1945, have been found. Discovery of it has been a "holy grail" of classical music for quite some time.

 I have just made a You Tube of the very first playing of three sketches by the Helsinki Philharmonic in October. This is the first time the music has been released outside of Finland (I am not sure that I should be doing this btw ).

If you have never heard Sibelius, his music is amazing.  His nation, Finland, declared independence from Russia in 1917 with him at its greatest national symbol. His music is gorgeously orchestrated yet modern in impact.

Rather than write a book here, Sibelius spent the last 25 years of his life working on the Eighth symphony.  He died in 1957 at the age of 92.  He never finished the Symphony, and reportedly burned it is his fireplace in 1945 in a fit of depression. However, small fragments of the symphony were discovered, and clues about it have been scattered about.

Recently, his grandson, and a famous music scholar in Finland who is compiling the works of the Sbelius, announced that, in fact, 800 pages of Sibelius'es sketches were not destroyed from this time period, and were handed over to the Finnish Library in the 1980's. He never did burn all of his work  in a fire it seems. The Helsinki Symphony played this music for the first time last month -- I have put the audio of this session up.

I found the sound recording in a Helsinki news site and made a You Tube out of it.

But this is only the start. It seems that in the 800 pages of manuscripts, it is thought that much more of the Symphony will be attributed to Sibelius 8th symphony over the next decade as music scholars review them. At a minimum, we will have a very good reconstruction of what Sibelius intended. if we are lucky, the entire unfinished work may be reconstructed.

Now, the story gets better. The person who worked with Sibelius, in copying his works, left his estate to his house cleaner --- whose granddaughter has come forth in the past two weeks with letters from the composer that have never been seen before. She also remembers hearing of manuscripts from Sibelius that have been left to her grandmother 50 years ago. The letters have already helped scholarship.

This sounds too "good" to be true. But it is lost music from a master discovered for the first time. So be the first outside of Finland to hear these superb short sketches by Jean Sibelius.

Here is a BBC report on the discovery: http://soundcloud.com/bbcintune/norman-lebrecht-on-sibelius-8

Here is an emotional Gramophone report:  http://www.gramophone.co.uk/classical-music-news/updated-helsinki-philharmonic-plays-sibelius%E2%80%99-eighth-fragments


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