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Jean Sibelius

Birth And Name

Sibelius, who was born in 1865 with the decidedly Finnish-sounding name Johan Julius Christian, was known to his loved ones as Janne from an early age. While still a student, he was inspired to use the same French spelling as his uncle Jean, referring to it as his “music name”.1)


Jean, as a child, had a natural talent for music, although he was no musical prodigy. He didn't begin formal piano instruction until he was nine years old. But it was the violin that sparked his interest, and he began by studying composition from books.2)

Vienna Philharmonic

Sibelius became a skilled violinist, but when composing became his primary focus, he was never able to achieve his full potential as a violinist. He even tried out for the Vienna Philharmonic, but didn't make the cut.3)

Violin Concerto

Sibelius' Violin Concerto was the one work he wished he could have performed himself. His performance technique, however, lagged behind his musical talent. It is still regarded as one of the greatest violin concertos ever written. Sibelius actually wrote a letter of praise to violinist Ida Haendel after hearing her performance of the composition.4)


Sibelius was an avid Wagnerian early in his career. A performance of Parsifal at Bayreuth had a profound impact on him, prompting him to write, “Nothing in the world has made such an impression on me, it moves the very strings of my heart.” Later, Sibelius became dissatisfied with Wagner's music, labeling it arrogant and nasty.5)

Government Salary

By 1898, Sibelius was receiving an annual grant from the Finnish government to alleviate any financial concerns that would have kept him from creating.6)


Sibelius felt enthusiastic about the Karelia region - home to the oldest and most valued components of Finnish culture – in addition to his opinions on Finland's position under Russian control. His Karelia Suite was initially composed for a historical tableau at the University of Helsinki. 'You couldn't hear a single note of the song – everyone was on their feet cheering and clapping', the composer added.7)


Finlandia, a tone poem, was the composition that first drew Sibelius' attention. It was essentially a nationalistic plea for Russia to stay out of Finland. Sibelius later revised the piece's core section into a Finlandia Hymn. The work is now considered the unofficial national anthem of the country.8)

National Hero

Sibelius rose to national acclaim as a national hero and was one of Finland's most recognized exporters. In his honor, a set of postage stamps was printed.9)

Survived Cancer

Sibelius, a heavy smoker and drinker, was diagnosed with throat cancer in his forties. The surgeries to remove the cancerous growths were successful, and he lived for another half-century.10)

Symphony No. 5

By the time Sibelius gave his Symphony No. 5 its first performance in 1915, he had come around to Mahler's credo that the “symphony must be like the world”. 'It has to include everything', he remarked. The fifth symphony was written in the midst of one of the most fascinating musical decades in history, which included Stravinsky's Rite of Spring and The Firebird, as well as Varese's modernist experimentation.11)


Sibelius had earned enough money to live comfortably more than 20 years before his death and had quit composing entirely. He retired to bask in the adoration of his compatriots, and he liked long walks in the woods, entertaining friends, and indulging in his favorite cigars and beer.12)

Dislike Of Critics

'Pay no attention to what the critics say,' Sibelius famously said of professional music critics. 'There has never been a statue dedicated to a critic.'13)


The State of Finland purchased Ainola, Sibelius' lakeside home, from his surviving daughters in 1972. It became a museum in 1974.14)


His image appeared on the Finnish 100 mark bill until it was removed from circulation in 2002. Since 2011, Finland has observed Flag Day on December 8, the composer's birthday, also known as the “Day of Finnish Music”. 15)

jean_sibelius.txt · Last modified: 2022/02/04 01:20 by eziothekilla34