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Erik Tawaststjerna embarked on his monumental and acclaimed study of Jean Sibelius’s life and music in 1960 and it occupied him for over a quarter of a century. His study differs from other work on the composer in one important respect: he had unrestricted access to the composer’s papers, diaries and letters as well as the advantage of numerous conversations with the composer’s widow and other members of the family. Thus his researches can justifiably claim to have thrown entirely fresh light on the great Finnish composer. Far from the remote personality of the Sibelius legend, Sibelius emerges as a highly colourful figure.
This third volume traces the composer’s career from the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, which found him poised on the brink of the Fifth Symphony, through to his death in 1957. It traces the genesis of the Fifth Symphony and gives a vivid portrait of Finland during the early years of independence and civil war. Tawaststjerna relates in fascinating detail the composer’s financial plight during these years and his struggles with his own psyche. We follow his career through to the Seventh Symphony and Tapiola, and the increasingly corrosive streak of self-criticism which blighted Sibelius’s last years and resulted in the destruction of the Eighth Symphony.
Translated by Robert Layton, himself a Sibelius specialist, this is a compelling and insightful account of the music of one of the twentieth century’s greatest composers.
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