Sibelius

Overview

Informed by a wealth of information that has come to light in recent years, this engaging biography tells the complete story of the life and musical work of Finnish composer Jean Sibelius (1865-1957). Drawing on Sibelius’s own correspondence and diaries, contemporary reviews, and the remarks of family and friends, the book presents a rich account of the events of the musician’s life. In addition, this volume is the first to set every work and performable fragment by Sibelius in its historical and musical context....

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Overview

Informed by a wealth of information that has come to light in recent years, this engaging biography tells the complete story of the life and musical work of Finnish composer Jean Sibelius (1865-1957). Drawing on Sibelius’s own correspondence and diaries, contemporary reviews, and the remarks of family and friends, the book presents a rich account of the events of the musician’s life. In addition, this volume is the first to set every work and performable fragment by Sibelius in its historical and musical context. Filling a significant gap, the biography also provides the first accurate information about much of the composer’s early music.

Writing for the general music-lover, Andrew Barnett combines his own extensive knowledge of Sibelius’s music with the insights of other scholars and musicians. He lays to rest a number of myths and untruths—that Sibelius wrote no chamber music of value, for example, and that he stopped composing in 1926 and didn’t need to compose to earn a living. Barnett completes the volume with the most thorough worklist available and an authoritative chronology of Sibelius’s entire output.

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Editorial Reviews

Choice
"A book of great importance: a fresh, evenhanded account of the composer, especially of his early years. . . . A welcome antidote to the seesaw of critical attention from uncritical admirers and excessively harsh critics. . . . Highly recommended."—Choice
Robert Layton
"Andrew Barnett is unfailingly perceptive and has the ability to engage the interest of both the less informed and the more expert reader. Few would be better qualified to undertake a new book on the Finnish master."—Robert Layton, author of Sibelius (Master Musicians Series)
The Newark Star-Ledger - Benjamin Ivry
“Barnett neatly dispels other myths, explaining how from around 1930 to his death, Sibelius completed briefer works while striving, unsuccessfully, to complete his Eighth Symphony. . . . A warmly humanizing, informed biography.”--Benjamin Ivry, The Newark Star-Ledger
Publishers Weekly

In this illuminating survey of Jean Sibelius (1865-1957), Barnett, founder of the U.K. Sibelius Society, attempts "to place Sibelius's music in context by discussing all of his surviving works." The book benefits from the ambitious project of the Swedish record company BIS to record everything in its Complete Sibelius Edition, an undertaking in which Barnett has been closely involved since the mid-1980s. He traces the life of the composer from his early music lessons (violin, piano, cello) as a youth in Hameenlinna, Finland, and his first serious attempts at composition during the 1880s to the recognition of his talent at the Helsinki Music Institute (now the Sibelius Academy) and further studies in Berlin and Vienna, followed by the 1892 success of his first major orchestral work, his prolific creations over the following decades and his dwindling output after 1927 when he wrote in his diary, "Abused, lonely, all my real friends dead. Just now my prestige here is non-existent. Impossible to work." In 1935, however, his status "as an international icon was secure." Incorporated throughout is Barnett's in-depth analysis of Sibelius's compositions, a critique so finely tuned that many readers will want to listen as they read. 16 b&w illus. unseen by PW. (Dec.)

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Library Journal

The recent availability of many of Jean Sibelius's letters and diaries, along with more comprehensive catalogs of his music-including early compositions about which little has been previously known-make this new biography of the Finnish composer a thorough update to earlier accounts of his life and work. Barnett, whose expertise has contributed to the Sibelius Edition recordings from BIS Records and the International Sibelius Festival, has two explicitly stated goals-to place the composer's complete catalog, insofar as it is known, in the context of his life and to lay to rest certain perceptions that he judges inaccurate based on newly available evidence. He accomplishes the first and makes persuasive arguments for the second, in particular offering diligent analyses of Sibelius's underrated chamber works and of his later compositions. Although intended for the general music lover, this book is also a useful supplement to academic music history collections; suitable for public and academic libraries.
—Genevieve Williams

The Newark Star-Ledger

“Barnett neatly dispels other myths, explaining how from around 1930 to his death, Sibelius completed briefer works while striving, unsuccessfully, to complete his Eighth Symphony. . . . A warmly humanizing, informed biography.”--Benjamin Ivry, The Newark Star-Ledger

— Benjamin Ivry

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300163971
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 4/6/2010
  • Pages: 464
  • Sales rank: 1,344,751
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Andrew Barnett is founder and chairman of the UK Sibelius Society. He lives in Brighton, England.
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Table of Contents

List of illustrations ix

Preface and acknowledgements xi

Note on spellings and abbreviations xiii

1 Sibelius's childhood and youth: 1865-1885 1

2 Chamber music from Helsinki, Korpo and Lovisa: 1885-1889 15

3 Berlin and Vienna: 1889-1891 52

4 Kullervo: 1892-1893 71

5 The tone painter and poet: 1894-1898 89

6 A symphony and the death of a child: 1899-1900 123

7 Finland's own Beethoven-the Second Symphony: 1901-1903 143

8 The Violin Concerto and first years at Ainola: 1904-1906 160

9 Young classicism-the Third Symphony: 1907-1909 181

10 The Fourth Symphony and Expressionism: 1910-1912 203

11 A visit to America: 1913-1914 228

12 Miniatures and the Fifth Symphony: 1914-1919 243

13 The Sixth Symphony: 1920-1923 287

14 The Seventh Symphony and Tapiola: 1923-1926 304

15 Life and works of the later years: 1927-1957 324

Conclusions 352

Notes 355

Appendices

I Music examples 360

II Catalogue of works Jean Sibelius 374

III Select bibliography 419

IV Select discography 421

V Family tree 427

VI Map of southern Finland 428

Index 429

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