Jean Sibelius His Life and Personality BY KARL EKMAN With a Foreword by ERNEST NEWMAN. PREFACE IT is not our intention in this book to enter into competition with the numerous responsible and subtle commentators, who have analysed and described Jean Sibelius the composer and his work in an excellent way. We are attracted by a hitherto untrodden field and have devoted our interest to Jean Sibelius the man, the unique personality behind his work. Whenever we have found it necessary to discuss some of the creations of this master hand as especially typical of important stages of his life and of striking features of his personality, we have kept our analysis and characterisation on the plane of common humanity. An attempt to give a complete picture of Jean Sibelius the man calls for no excuse. Like every artist of a high order Sibelius has exerted an influence on his contemporaries far in excess of the limits of the direct effects of his art. As a proclaimer in music of the feelings and dreams of his people he has become a leading figure in the history of Finland, as a fearless combatant in the lists of universal musical art one of the great, whose struggle and purpose contributed towards forming the spiritual physiognomy of the twentieth century. What such a man experienced, how he viewed the personalities he met, how he wrestled with the problems that life set him, how he reacted to tendencies and events in various spheres of lifenone of this can be a matter of indifference to his contemporaries. Most of the materials of this book are the result of personal conversations with Sibelius in a dozen sittings lasting all day in his country home at Jarvenpaa, an hours journey by train to the north of the capital of Finland In our talks the master placed himself at our disposal with all the kindness of his generous nature without allowing his persistent questioner to notice any sign of impatience. We have endeavoured as far as possible to express Sibelius views of all that is important in his lifeand even of what is less important, when this has come quite naturally in the course of easy conversationin his own words, either as we jotted them down on paper during our sittings or wrote them down immediately after, as the train steamed through the countryside of Nyland towards Helsingfors in the twilight. During our talks in Jarvenpaa we had occasion . more than once to recall that formerly Sibelius had consistently frustrated all attempts at inducing him to speak at all about himself and the reality that formed the background of his works this attitude was due on the one hand to the noli me tangere of an aristocratic and susceptible nature towards the insistent outside world, and on the other to the spontaneous revulsion of a proud artist against the mere idea of being suspected of wishing to encourage public interest by any other means than his art. We must admit that we, too, failed to ascertain all that we, and, no doubt, our readers would have liked to know.
JUST TURN ME LOOSE, LET ME STRADDLE MY OLD SADDLE UNDERNEATH THE NORTHERN SKIES; ON MY CAYUSE, LET ME WANDER OVER YONDER TILL I SEE THE MOUNTAINS RISE; I WANT TO RIDE TO THE RIDGE WHERE THE WEST COMMENCES... CAN’T LOOK AT HOBBLES AN’ I CAN’T STAND FENCES!
Don’t Fence me In. (With apologies to Gene Autry...)
Jean Sibelius couldn’t STAND to be fenced in! He LOVED the outdoors.
My brother’s a lot like that...
He hated the hobbles and the fences of his old, button-down university town, and LOVED the great outdoors - so when a chance arose to take a rapid diploma in surveying, he GRABBED it.
He specialized in the seismic branch of surveying and, armed with his certificate, lit off WEST - a-grinin’, to follow the sun - a la Fess Parker.
It was the Alberta oil boom of the seventies, and my brother quickly made enough money to do as he pleased.
So he founded a company, became its CEO, and slapped together enough dough to be able to snap up a grand heritage property overlooking the Okanagan Valley and, with his new wife, raise a good strong brood of boys to adulthood.
And well into his sixties, he lives there to this day, wildfires or no!
So it was with Sibelius.
You know, you might never have known that this epochal composer loved the great outdoors as much as his music, without noticing the pastoral references in his compositions.
He loved the outdoors SO much, he immortalized his beloved, oppressed Finland as the prime ingredient of his tone poems.
His family was dead set against a career in music. They INSISTED Sibelius do socially-acceptable training in Law - THEN fall back on his music.
Sibelius, as you might expect, wouldn’t listen. So when the first amazingly glowing reports about his music reached them, THEY changed their tune. The rest, of course, is history.
Sibelius was, as you may know, a passionate flag waver. He Loved his country. So as discord arose with the RUSSIAN nationalists, Sibelius played his trump card:
And to go figure the climacteric effect the work had on the fellow Finns who had always dissed his talent as mere doodling, you had to be there or read up on your history.
For Jean Sibelius promptly rose to international music celebrity status!
A hero in the magnitude of a new Beethoven.
Now, this book itself - gotta tell you - contains quite a bit of what I found to be filler, maybe because the substance of it is in only several days’ conversation with the late Grand Old Man of composing.
Oh, well. The nuggets he gleans from this Master are at the very least priceless.
I recently returned to Finland and went to the home of Sibelius. This books was more of a history of his education and musical works and didn't go into his personal life or character. It was fun to see the pictures in the book as I was in the home where some of them were taken.