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31. Sibelius: Violin Concerto


[…] driving on in with the sun roof open
I slip in a cassette of Sibelius 
turn onto the San Diego freeway
south
angle right into a monstrous traffic jam 
turn up the volume of the front and back speakers 
and feel good for the first time in hours.

Excerpt from Suckerfish by Charles Bukowski


In Bukowski’s poems, Sibelius is constantly linked to freedom. The Finnish composer was known for doing things his way, not giving a shit what society or his audience had to say about that.

In 1904 his popularity took a hit even Sibelius couldn’t ignore. He somehow had scheduled the premiere of his only concerto before completing it, and before contracting a soloist who was actually capable of mastering his difficult composition. When the violinists on his shortlist all turned down his last-minute invitation, Sibelius had to settle for a lesser God.

Long story short: what should have been his great breakhrough as a composer of concertos, became a clusterfuck of epic proportions. Sibelius rewrote some parts and premiered it again in 1905 with Richard Strauss conducting the Berlin Court Orchestra, but the damage was already done. Critics told Sibelius to stick to his guns and write more stunning tone poems and symphonies about Finnish landscapes and white swans on black lakes.

Recommended recording:
Leonidas Kavakos, Osmo Vänskä & Lahti Symphony Orchestra

87 years after that dreadful premiere, Sibelius’ heirs gave Kavakos and Vänskä permission to record it. Eversince then it has been hailed as the masterpiece it had been all the time.

▶︎ PLAY IN SPOTIFY

 

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