Programme Guide

In his Fifth Symphony, which ends with a grandiose song of nature, Sibelius again applied himself to the “big tone” in the traditional heroic key: E flat major. The work ends with a highly effective finale, in essence based on a figure in the winds that the composer himself designated a “swan hymn”: “Today at ten to eleven I saw 16 swans. One of my greatest experiences! […] The Fifth Symphony’s Finale-theme: Legato in the trumpets!!”

Sibelius’s Sixth, in contrast, which largely dispenses with the otherwise typical rhapsodic discontinuities and contradictions and also has markedly concertante characteristics, lives from a never-ending flow of the melodic figures, set out in front of listeners in filigree, polyphonic curved lines. The music of a romantic impetus is enhanced in the Finale “in a dark orchestral roar in which the main theme drowns” (Sibelius), before a melancholy string movement leads to the conclusion.

How much Sibelius had departed in his symphonic works from the traditional canon of forms can last be heard in his one-movement Seventh Symphony, premiered as Fantasia sinfonica, which Simon Rattle performs directly following the Sixth: starting from an adagio tone in the strings reminiscent of Mahler, the music progresses through many stages to a fateful climax, before a Largamente conclusion again takes up the plaintive character of the beginning. This performance of Symphomies Nos. 5, 6 and 7 concluded Sir Simon Rattle’s Sibelius cycle with the Philharmoniker from 2015.

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