Jean Sibelius

Jean Sibelius
Short Name: Jean Sibelius
Full Name: Sibelius, Jean, 1865-1957
Birth Year: 1865
Death Year: 1957

Johann Julius Christian [Jean] Sibelius DM Finland 1865-1957. Born at Hameenlinna, Finland, the son of a Swedish-speaking medical doctor, he lost his father to typhoid in 1868, leaving the family in substantial debt. His mother, again pregnant, had to sell their property and move in with her widowed mother. His aunt Julia gave him piano lessons when he was seven on the family upright piano, wrapping him on the knuckles when he played a wrong note. He learned to improvise as he played. His uncle, Pehr Ferdinand Sibelius, was interested in music, especially the violin, and gave Jean a violin when he was 10. As his musical advisor his uncle encouraged him to play and compose music. He played music with sister on piano, brother on cello, and himself on violin. He attended a Finnish-speaking prep school in 1874 and continued his education at the Hameenlinna Normal Lyceum thereafter. Jean also showed a strong interest in nature, frequently walking around the countryside when the family moved to the Loviisa coast for the summer months. In 1881 he took violin lessons from the local bandmaster, and developed a strong interest in violin. He became an accomplished player, and thought of becoming a virtuoso, but realizing he began study too late in life for that, instead opted to compose. He often played music in quartets with neighboring families, adding to his chamber music experience. He took the French form of his name, Jean. He studied law at the Imperial Alexander University in Finland, but showed far more interest in music. He then studied music at the Helsinki Music Institute (now Sibelius Academy) from 1885-1889. The school’s founder, Martin Wegelius, did much to support education development in Finland and gave Sibelius his first lessons in composition. Another teacher,,Ferruccio Busoni, a pianist-composer, helped him as well and became a life-long friend. Other friends, pianist Adolf Paul, and conductor-to-be, Armas Jarnefelt, also helped him. In 1892 he married Armas ‘s sister, Aino Jarnefelt, daughter of General Alexander Jarnefelt, governor of Vaasa. They had six daughters, Eva, Ruth, Kirsti, Katarina, Margareta, and Heidi. He continued his musical studies in Berlin (1889-1890) with Albert Becker, and in Vienna (1890-1891) with Robert Fuchs and Karl Goldmark. In Berlin he had opportunity to attend concerts and operas. In Vienna he turned to orchestral composition and had much success, although he had gallstone surgery during that period. He also traveled to the UK, France, Germany, and the USA during this time in his life, composing, conducting, and socializing. In 1892 he took on teaching assignments at the Music Institute and at Kajanus’s conducting school, but this left him with little time for composing. Sibelius’ works were more and more appreciated in Helsinki concert halls as he composed and conducted symphonies in the mid-1890s. In 1898 he was awarded a substantial grant, initially for 10 years, and later extended for life, allowing him to concentrate on composition. Much of his music became popular in Finland and in Germany. In 1899 he began work on his first symphony. It went well, but other patriotic music hehad composed did even better, since Russia was trying to restrict the powers of the Grand Duchy of Finland. In 1900 Sibelius went on an international tour with Kajanus and his orchestra, presenting his recent works. In 1901 he wrote his second symphony, which received rave reviews. He continued to compose as he became popular and well-known. In 1903 he had a new home built near Lake Tuusula north of Helsinki, calleed Ainola (after his wife). He gave concerts in and around Finland, spending more and more time away from home, to the chagrin of his wife. After a time he returned home and composed from there. He spent much time wining and dining in Helsinki, and it had a disastrous effect on his wife, who finally entered a sanitorium. He resolved again to give up drinking and concentrate on composing his 3rd symphony. He met Gustav Mahler in Helsinki and they became friends. He performed his 3rd symphony in St Petersburg, Russia. In 1907 he underwent a serious operation for suspected throat cancer, and spent time in the hospital in 1908. His smoking and drinking had now become life-threatening. He cancelled concerts for Rome, Warsaw, and Berlin, but kept one in London. His health deteriorated further, And his brush with death inspired him to compose his 4th symphony. In 1909 his successful throat operation resulted in renewed happiness for him and his wife, Aino. He continued conducting concerts, and met Claude Debussy, who further encouraged his musical efforts. He began working on his 4th symphony in 1910, but had to write other music to compensate for dwindling funds. He finished his 4th symphony in Berlin and conducted concerts in Sweden in 1911. In 1912 he completed short orchestral works. Over the next several years he continued producing a variety of pieces of music, well-received, especially in America. He was given an honorary DM degree from Yale University and also another from the University of Helsinki about the same time. WW1 interrupted his music royalties in 1915, and he was forced to compose smaller works for publication to make ends meet. He completed his 5th symphony at age 50, but he was dissatisfied with it and reworked it three times In 1917 he starting drinking again, triggering arguments with his wife. The Russian Revolution in 1917 caused an improvement in their personal relationship, and he wrote his ‘Jager March’ to celebrate Finnish independence from Russia. The next year the Finnish Civil War began, putting a damper on his march. In 1919, after the war, he completed his 6th symphony. In 1920 George Eastman , of Eastman Kodak, asked him to teach for a year in New York, but he declined. He did enjoy a trip conducting several concerts in England in 1921. He premiered his 6th symphony in 1923. In 1924 he completed his 7th symphony. The next year he composed a number of small pieces. He began drinking again. He did write a few more major works, but for the last thirty years of his life he avoided publicly talking about his music. He tried to write an 8th symphony, but was unsatisfied with it and burned the scores. In fact, he burned a laundry basket full of music he had written, to the chagrin of his wife. But, afterward, he became calmer and gradually had a lighter mood. In 1935 he was awarded the Goethe-Metal, with a certificate signed by Adolf Hitler. A Soviet invasion of Finland in 1939 was repelled, but Finland gave up territory to Russia as a result. In 1941 Sibelius and his wife returned to their Finland home, Ainola, after a long absence. He did not compose much the last few years, and died at Ainola. His wife outlived him by 12 years.

John Perry

Wikipedia Biography

Jean Sibelius (/sɪˈbeɪliəs/ sib-AY-lee-əs; Finland Swedish: [ˈjɑːn siˈbeːliʉs, ˈʃɑːn -]; born Johan Julius Christian Sibelius; 8 December 1865 – 20 September 1957) was a Finnish composer of the late Romantic and early-modern periods. He is widely regarded as his country's greatest composer, and his music is often credited with having helped Finland develop a national identity during its struggle for independence from Russia.

Tunes by Jean Sibelius (1)sort descendingAsInstancesIncipit
FINLANDIAJean Sibelius (Composer)27232343 23122 33234

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