MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

Concluding the Sibelius Festival in Seattle


With the strings leaning in to one of the most powerfully orchestrated C major chords of the 20th century, the Seattle Symphony’s ambitious Luminous Landscapes Sibelius Festival has reached its conclusion. (There’s also a curious Nachtisch to this week’s final program: after the orchestra players cleared the stage on Thursday, we were treated to a mini-recital of nine Sibelius lieder, with soprano/pianists Maria Männistö and Christina Siemens alternating roles.)

For fellow music lovers (and Sibelius completists) who’d been present for all three programs this past month, there was an added sense of satisfying closure that was maybe, just maybe, a bit reminiscent of being with a Ring audience at Seattle Opera as the final chord of Götterdämmerung fades out.

On Sunday you can listen to the entire marathon via the KING FM Seattle Symphony Channel, KING FM 98.1’s new collaborative project with the SSO. On March 29 the marathon starts at 12:01 a.m. with a looping 24-hour stream of the seven symphonies, the Violin Concerto (with soloist Pekka Kuusisto), and Finlandia — all with Thomas Dausgaard conducting, recorded live from the past month’s performances.

My previous coverage of the Sibelius Festival:

review of Sibelius Program I for Bachtrack

review of Sibelius Program II for Musical America

review of Sibelius Festival Program III for Musical America

And a glance at San Francisco Symphony’s recent “Creation” program, which included the composer’s fascinating, brief tone poem Luonnotar.

We’re still early in this 150th anniversary year honoring Sibelius. The birthday itself falls in December — which somehow seems just right for a composer so associated with Northern landscapes. Many orchestras have therefore planned Sibelius-related programs for the coming season as well. But the Seattle Symphony is the only U.S. orchestra to have performed an entire Sibelius symphony cycle back-to-back to mark the anniversary. It’s been a genuinely laudable artistic milestone for the ensemble.

Filed under: programming, Seattle Symphony, Sibelius

One Response - Comments are closed.

  1. David Brooks says:

    Thank you for all the great reviews, Thomas. They’ve really enhanced my appreciation for what I heard, as we have discussed in email. I’m left with some lasting impressions: as you said, the way that the focus on the Sibelian elements helped connect the tapestry together (the woodwind thirds, the strings’ overlapping figures that were simplified to “just” scales in the end, the solid power of the brass, even the almost-parodic emphasis on the horn blasts). I particularly appreciated the architectural clarity; I kept hearing movements as a sequence of arches, with flights of color anchored in strong pillars (musically, I realized how many extended rondo forms were presented). I liked the way Dausgaard treated his players as sensitive and creative musicians, not just members of an orchestra; for all his control of the shape he relied on the players’ own artistry to make the vision complete. And I heard a Sixth that for me was the high point of the cycle; despite your feelings about the Thursday performance they seemed to be well into the work Saturday, and the full violin sections were simply marvelous. Looking forward to the complete CD set!

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