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Pianists such as Ilmari Hannikainen, Glenn Gould, Erik Tawaststjerna and Eero Heinonen have seen Sibelius's personal way of writing for the piano as an interesting challenge, and none of them has doubted Sibelius's mastery of the instrument. According to Gould "Sibelius never wrote against the grain of the keyboard.
In Sibelius's piano music everything works, everything sings - but on its own terms. Sibelius seemed to provide ammunition for the views of his critics by a few careless remarks.
He appreciated them to the full and considered the opinion of the musical world unfair. Sibelius added that one day his piano pieces might become as popular as those of Schumann. Otherwise he would scarcely have used the piano throughout his life as a practical instrument, one on which he improvised and gained new ideas.
According to contemporaries Sibelius had considerable pianistic skills, charming his audience with his improvised fantasies, even if he was not a professional pianist.
Besides, if he had not liked the instrument it would have been quite strange for him to "masochistically" compose a huge amount of music where the piano is either the solo instrument or part of a chamber music ensemble. Overall, Sibelius wrote works for the piano as follows: Altogether, we find that the piano is included in more than half of Sibelius's compositions, i.
Writing in actually before all Sibelius's piano works had been published Cecil Gray claimed that there was no development in the piano works - apart from their insignificance - and that the last piano compositions were clearly inferior to earlier works. However, Erik Tawaststjerna took a different view: As a whole they show the same general development as the composer's larger works.
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Like the rest of his output, Sibelius's piano music follows the pattern of his stylistic development. It can be divided into six parts. The first of these belongs to the young Sibelius's "chamber music period" aroundwhen he adopted a classical-romantic style of form and expression.
During the second, "national romantic" period around Sibelius's music became more chromatic and created an interesting synthesis of Central European and Finnish elements. During his third, "neoclassical" period around Sibelius made more use of classical idioms, although his output was also strongly influenced by Kalevala romanticism and symbolism. During his fourth period of "modern classicism" around he wrote sonatinas and rondinos, while at the same time impressionist and expressionist tendencies made their way into his music.
The fifth and last active creative period around was the time of a "synthetic universal style". Now there was a plasticity that combined notions from classical antiquity, modal tonality, nature mysticism and tonal meditation; now he incorporated both traditional elements and radical modernism.
Beyond this, even during his period of "silence" s he composed works, small in number but original. Early piano works During the first period Sibelius's works were mainly of the kind one would expect from music written for the needs of his immediate circle, including his brother and sister and his friends.
Yet its scope has turned out to be larger as the early manuscripts have been become objects of serious study. Almost all of the piano works from this period over 50 of them remain unpublished. They include harmonic and thematic exercises as well as sonata fragments. The earliest datable piano work, Con moto, sempre una corda, contains the subscription "Minne af J. It is a pianistically demanding and adventurous salon work which combines mazurka, waltz and scherzo characteristics.
In it there are brilliant explicit fermata in the style of Liszt.
It is one of Sibelius's most extensive piano works; it contains an impressive storm scene and hints of a more mature style, even of the fifth symphony. The work describes the stages of a love affair: Florestan is a large-scale four-movement work influenced by Schumann. Its demands vary between easy and fairly difficult.
The music is imaginative with romantic elements and Sibelian idiosyncrasies. While he was in Berlin Sibelius wrote several sonata expositions and also an E major sonata allegro - a work which is not only pianistically impressive but also indicative of the future Sibelian style, with its harmonic resting-points and its nature-based figures.
In the Six Impromptus we find reminiscences of Sibelius's journey to collect traditional runes in Karelia. Kantele influences and dance tunes from eastern Finland and Karelia can be observed in the pieces. In this connection it is well to remember that Sibelius could play the kantele and that his performances have actually been documented.
Moderato A minor and Dolcissimo A minor This is an unaffected and melodious opening piece. Its theme has been regarded as "the musical symbol of Finland, Sibelius's native country" Ostrowsky. This is a fairy-tale march slightly reminiscent of Grieg with a middle section which was very dear to Sibelius. Sibelius was very pleased with this section; we found it extremely lovely and could not get enough of it.
In those days his music was new and strange, but we immediately understood these Impromptus and enjoyed them enormously. Here we have a melancholy fairy tale based on the alternation and repetition of two motifs. Note the left hand imitation of the second theme, which first appears in the treble. A sweetly rocking salon waltz with a second section in E minor. Sonata in F major, op. First performance by Oskar Merikanto, 17th April Helsinki.
Sibelius's only piano sonata has often been condemned as being essentially a piano arrangement of an orchestral work. But in the opinion of one of the founders of the Finnish piano school, Ilmari Hannikainen a student of the Russian master Alexander Siloti, who in turn was a student of Liszt"the F major Piano sonata is a splendid work.
Fresh, refreshing and full of life. There is no question of there being any tremolos in it. Everything that looks like that is really to be played in quavers or semi-quavers, in the manner of, say, Beethoven's piano sonatas.
The opening movement is powerfully orchestral, indeed Brucknerian. It brings to mind Kullervo, En Saga and the Karelia music. Sostenutos, tremolos and ostinatos play a significant role. The movement represents Sibelius's Karelianistic pianism. The music is lyrical, sorrowful and expansive.
It is interrupted twice by a quietly tinkling kantele dance marked Presto in C sharp and the F Aeolian mode. The riotous finale is based on an alternation between two motifs, one a trepak and one lyrical. It has a wild kinetic energy.
The forte recapitulation of the second, lyrical motif takes the movement to a dizzying conclusion. In the end Sibelius was able to create an unusual and virtuoso Karelian style in his sonata, which has no obvious models - though perhaps Grieg and Tchaikovsky are lurking in the background. Ten piano pieces op. This somewhat heterogeneous opus, which was composed over a long period, contains those piano pieces of Sibelius that are perhaps most popular and most frequently played.
In this opus Sibelius does not so much continue to develop the Karelian idiom as combine it with an impressive and more traditionally romantic piano style.
The result is nevertheless exciting and unique. In places the work shows interesting anticipations of Valse triste This is a dramatic love scene which opens with a duet between the treble and the middle range of the instrument. The expressive style of the movement is orchestral, even Wagnerian, although the climax also brings to mind Brahms's orchestral style.
This is the most extensive movement of the opus. It used to be part of repertoire of the pianist, Siloti. A favourite piece with a virtuoso character, bringing to mind violin techniques, even Paganini. It is based on repetitions, octaves, broken chords and rapid scale figures.
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As a counterbalance we hear in the middle section a simple, folk-like melody. Its syncopating accompaniment associates it with Souda, souda, sinisorsa. A Chopinesque waltz which is popular among piano students. In the middle of the piece a fierce storm breaks out, with the right hand imitating a virtuoso violin solo. In a later version the middle section is in part transposed one octave lower.
A catchy, melodic miniature, which could very well exist also in an arrangement for string orchestra. There is also another version which is very similar to the previous version. This contains a passionate cello-like melody which rises to a splendid climax. The work would also be very well suited to a string orchestra. This work is much loved by Finnish pianists. There is no absolute certainty of its connection with Kalevala, but it can be analysed and interpreted on the basis of such a connection.
The work can be seen as a triptych portraying the principal character's three successive states of mind. Even the harshest critics of Sibelius have admitted the excellence of the work. Glenn Gould, who recorded it, valued Kyllikki despite its quasi-virtuoso character and traditional limitations, seeing it as a significant addition to the piano repertoire.
Kyllikki can be regarded as the principal and final work of Sibelius's Kalevala-inspired piano period.
The main theme resembles the opening of Beethoven's Waldstein sonata, and its lyrical variant occupies the place normally taken by a secondary theme. However, it is difficult to grasp the traditional form, as the listener's attention is taken up by powerful, chordal, octave progressions in contrary motion, which bring in the recapitulation very brutally.
This gives us a melancholy inner landscape with a static main theme, which doubles in tenths both a tonic B flat and a dominant F pedal point - and also the theme itself.
In the middle section the music for a time becomes nocturnal. It includes a wistful "adieux" motif in the manner of Beethoven's sonata "Les adieux" and proceeds through a surprisingly impressive climax until it once again falls into a brooding mood, i.
The finale has sometimes been considered too light and short compared with the previous "deep" movements. On the other hand, the function of the finale of a classical multi-movement work is to provide relaxation and a sense of closure, often in a dance rhythm. The polka-type rhythm of the finale suits the work as a whole and is programmatically linked with Kyllikki going dancing without permission.
Moreover, the contrasting Tranquillo episode links the movement with the more serious character of the previous movement. In the finale one also finds a quality of pastoral lucidity which tends to counteract the high-spirited nature of the movement. Traditional elements still occasionally appear, as Sibelius never entirely gave up the vocabulary of Romanticism.
At the same time, in the wake of the third symphonythe classical approach becomes increasingly dominant. The most essential factors in opus 58 are a new polyphonic-linear way of writing, with economical and graphical textures, concise and concentrated expression and experimental harmony employing exciting dissonances. The music is bold and innovative, and should definitely not be labelled as domestic or salon music. For the pianist the music poses challenges both in terms of intellectual grasp and technique.
Sibelius was conscious of the progress he had made, since he wrote in his diary 28th September that he felt that the technique "would be better than in other similar works". Ilmari Hannikainen understood the uniqueness of the opus earlier than many others.
In he wrote: The whole suite is like a string of pearls in which every pearl glistens brightly. And the style of these pieces! Sibelius is always Sibelius from start to finish, but in op. The French title of the work and the tempo marking reveal the impressionistic-expressionistic starting point Debussy, Scriabin.
The opening piece is excitingly modern. The texture, which is mainly two-voiced, is based on considerable independence of the hands: Although the middle section and the denser repeat of the opening also contain more traditional elements, the innovative character of the piece as a whole satisfies both the musical and the intellectual curiosity of the listener. The piece makes an exciting impression with its hint of bi-modalism and its vivacity.
The composer saw in it "a touch of Benvenuto Cellini", referring perhaps to the lively character and capriciousness of that sharp-witted Renaissance artist.
The piece is a remarkable achievement with its tonal adventures and Northern salutes to Bach: It has a quality of innocence, in the spirit of the French Baroque of the 18th century. A special feature of the middle section is an accompaniment ostinato which recalls the Passepied movement of Debussy's Suite bergamasque. The title "In the Evening" refers to Schumann. Indeed, the composer described the movement as " his best piece as far as the atmosphere is concerned".
Its apparent simplicity conceals unpredictable changes of key. A dialogue between the bass and the treble, digressing to surprising key areas. According to the composer the piece is "in E flat minor and melancholy in the style of bygone days". Here Sibelius juxtaposes a brooding minuet episode with a music-box texture. This excellent piece is distanced "entfremdet" in a way that might reflect nostalgic reveries of the composer at a particular moment.
In "The Fisher Song" the long, assertive accompaniment figure on the left hand supports Italianate melodic material, which is combined with harp-like arpeggio figures. A distancing effect similar to that in the Menuetto no. The "Summer Song" in E flat major is pervaded by a solemn or even religious atmosphere.
The chorale-type melody is accompanied by powerful harmonies. Two rondinos Sibelius's new, modern classicism is considerably deepened in the sonatinas and rondinos. The use of these genres is connected with the general neoclassical aspirations of the era, as is evident in Ravel's piano sonatina and in the sonatinas of Reger and Busoni Sibelius's endeavours in this direction, written to revive Classicism, were more retrospective than other contemporary works, and his own Classicism was generally far-removed from "cubist" neoclassical adaptations Bach with "wrong" bass lines, capricious and broken rhythms.
The sonatinas and rondinos were Sibelius's first "pure water" pieces, to be distinguished from the "cocktails" served by his contemporaries. They are short and pithy but their content is important - in short, they are classical. It would be hard to find a more condensed and noble theme than the one heard here. Its continuation is short, but it introduces an exciting, chromatic theme, with cadences leading to the dominant of the main key, C sharp minor.
In the next stage the chromatic theme also incorporates the triplet motif of the main theme. There is no clear boundary between the exposition and the development section, but the listener can notice the recapitulation section from return of the main theme in its original pitch. The slow movement is based on two appearances of a singing, viola-like theme; on the second occasion it is transposed one octave higher and harmonised more or less as a chorale.
The movement ends with an F sharp major chord, a Picardy modification of the main key. The subsidiary sequences are marked by a sparkling major-accented motif, first in G major, then at the end in F sharp major, which also remains the optimistic final key of the sonatina.
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Sibelius's liking for Bach is evident in this happy work. The movement is opened by imitation and an exchange between voices, and this is also heard in what follows. More important than the boundary between the subsidiary theme and the introductory sequence, though there is such a boundary if one looks for it is the general ellipsis of sonata form, the obscuration of boundaries and above all the endless polyphonic play. Once again we hear a double melody, now in the cello register while the accompaniment figures on the higher registers twinkle from a clear sky.
Before the recapitulation there are expressive minor ninth intervals. The dance-like E major diatonic material of the finale theme is pure joy.
This time the finale is based on early-classical sonata form. The B flat minor sonatina is one of Sibelius's most important experiments in concentrating the multi-movement form, uniting the movements and preparing the thematic material of the different movements from the same material. The sonatina precedes the masterly fusions found in the first movement of the fifth symphony and in the seventh symphony.
The sonatina has in theory three movements, but the last two are fused together, and the opening movement presents material used in the finale. The first movement and the second half of the second movement follow early-classical sonata form, in which the movement contains two halves of roughly equal length. The sonatina is a perfect expression of Sibelius's masterly control of form. The Allegro moderato section adds to the theme an upwards arpeggio and triplet ornamentation.
It also contains a puzzling, two-voiced contrary motion passage which reaches to the highest and lowest registers; it resembles a homage to Beethoven and is repeated in the Allegretto section. The Allegretto is based on a Siciliano alteration of the main motif.
The tenth tremolos on the right hand make a violinistic impression.