Celebrating Sibelius' 150th

The year 2015 marks the 150th anniversary of Jean Sibelius’ birth, and his musical legacy is being celebrated all over the world. Here in the U.S., the Seattle Symphony’s Sibelius Festival, March 12-28, is the largest of its kind, with a month’s worth of activities and repertoire spanning all seven symphonies, plus the Violin Concerto and Finlandia.

For Seattleites, it’s a unique opportunity to be immersed in the expansive and atmospheric sound world of Finland’s most important composer, a man with iconic status in his home country of Finland. It’s also the first time the orchestra will have several weeks of concerts with Thomas Dausgaard, Principal Guest Conductor, since he was named to the post last year. Although Dausgaard is Danish and not Finnish, he has tremendous affinity with Sibelius’ music, and is a very noted interpreter of these works.

Other festivities include pre- and post-concert events, chamber music concerts, performances by community choirs, visiting dignitaries and guest speakers well-connected to the world of Sibelius, including the composer’s great-granddaughter, Ruusamari Teppo.

The Symphony’s Festival partner, the Nordic Heritage Museum in Seattle, will present the exhibit Finland: Designed Environments from March 12 through July 26. Finland: Designed Environments looks at the explosion of creativity in Finnish design over the last 15 years.

Why celebrate Sibelius to this great extent in Seattle? Part of the answer may lie in the inescapable geographic and cultural similarities between Finland and the Pacific Northwest. Sibelius was greatly inspired by landscapes in his native Finland, with lakes and pine forests similar to our own. In addition, the Seattle region’s heritage includes the many Scandinavian communities which have settled here, and which continue to immigrate to the area to this day. Culturally and socially, both Finland and the Pacific Northwest have heightened eco- and social awareness, more biking, fishing and boating than you find in most places, and tolerant and compassionate human values.

But beyond this, of course, is the sheer inspiration of the seven Sibelius symphonies. In the words of Seattle Symphony Executive Director Simon Woods, “The journey from the heroic and nationalistic First Symphony to the lonely and enigmatic Seventh, is one of music’s most fascinating. Below the surface of Sibelius’ distinctive language lies a sense of wonder at the majesty of the natural world and a fearless introspection into the human spirit. These works are timeless in the questions they ask of us and the inspiration of the answers they provide. They are an encounter with our spiritual selves and a celebration of life, and the chance to experience them all together in a cycle will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for most of us.”

For more information about the Festival, and a CD listening guide to all seven symphonies curated by Woods, visit our website. You can also check out Sibelius anniversary activities around the world at www.sibelius150.org, or catch up on the latest buzz by searching #sibelius150 on Twitter.

To find out more about supporting the Sibelius Festival, contact Tobin Cattolico at 206.215.4833 or tobin.cattolico@seattlesymphony.org

By Rosalie Contreras

Posted on March 2, 2015