Jean Sibelius—a music appreciation lesson for kids


Jean Sibelius
Sibelius, 24 years
Jean Sibelius (1865-1957) was a Finnish composer of the romantic time period. He was born to a Swedish-speaking family in Finland (Swedish is an official language in Finland as there is a minority that speaks it). As a child, his family called him "Janne", but in his late teens, he opted for the French version of his first name, "Jean," influenced by his seafaring uncle.

After finishing high school Sibelius first went to study law, because that is what his family insisted. However, Jean wasn't interested in law, and soon quit his studies in order to study music only. At first, he planned to become a violinist, but later he realized it was composing that he was better at (though he was also a good violinist). He studied composing and violin in music schools in Helsinki, Berlin, and Vienna.

Sibelius composed a lot of his works for the orchestra. He also wrote songs, violin music, piano music, an chamber music. The core of his works is his seven symphonies (just like Beethoven). Some of his other orchestral works include Karelia Suite, Finlandia, Lemminkäinen Suite, and Tapiola. Many of his works were inspired by Finnish patriotism and love of his homeland, and by the Finnish epic, Kalevala.

Jean Sibelius
Sibelius in 1913 (48 years)

Sibelius married Aino Järnefelt in 1892 at the age of 27. The couple had six daughters: Eva, Ruth, Kirsti (who died at a very young age), Katarina, Margareta and Heidi. Their home, called Ainola, was located in a rural area in Jarvenpaa, north of Helsinki. Sibelius wanted to live there to be able to compose in peace, out of the hustle of the capital. Ainola is located next to a beautiful lake, and the nature there was a big inspiration to Sibelius's music.

Sibelius did not compose any major works after 1926—the last 31 years of his life. He died in Ainola in 1957 from a brain hemorrhage, and was buried there. His wife Aino then lived at Ainola another 12 years until her death. Today, Ainola is owned by the State of Finland and is a museum open to visitors at summertime.

Videos of Sibelius's music

Finlandia is one of the most famous pieces by Sibelius. It has lots of turbulent music, bringing to mind the struggle of the Finnish people against the Russian rule at that time (in 1899-1900). In the end, there is a calm hymn. Perfomred by Lahti Symphony Orchestra, conductor Ari Rasilainen

Andante Festivo, another short piece for the orchestra. "Andante" means moderately slowly, like walking, "Festivo" means festive. Performed by Lahti Symphony Orchestra

Another performance of Finlandia, this time by Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and Vasily Petrenko.

Song of Peace. (This is My Song, oh God of All the Nations). This is the slow hymn from the end of Finlandia. Performed by a choir from the Netherlands.

A sample from Sibelius's Symphony No. 5. Sibelius composed seven symphonies. Performing Berliner Philharmoniker.

A sample from Sibelius's Symphony No. 4. Performing Berliner Philharmoniker.

Sibelius Violin Concerto, 1st movement. Performing David Oistrakh, violin, Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra, directed by Gennady Rozhdestvensky. This is an old recording from 1966.

Sibelius composed a lot of songs, so I wanted to include one. Sibelius: Sydämeni Laulu (The Song of My Heart). Performing YL Male Voice Choir- Tokyo, 2007.

A lot of the piano music Sibelius composed isn't too difficult. This is Romance Op 24 No. 9, played by a 12-year-old.

Another piano piece, Spruce, performed by 20-year old "Jabonator" from Finland. Sibelius was often inspired by the Finnish nature.

Yet one more piano piece, Caprice, by Kaoru.

Valse Triste. Performing Nino Rota Orchestra from Italy, conductor Bepi Speranza.

Audios of Sibelius's music

Valse Triste, performed by Fulda Symphonic Orchestra, conductor Simon Schindler

Audios on external websites

Jean Sibelius tracks at Last.fm
These are just 30-second preview clips but can give you an idea of Sibelius's music.

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