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Born: 1865, Hämeenlinna, FinlandDied: 1957, Järvenpää, Finland

“As usual, I am a slave to my themes and submit to their demands.”

Sibelius was a hero to his Finnnish countrymen, but mythology (including Finland’s national epic, the Kalevala) was just one source of inspiration for this composer’s compelling music. A number of theatrical works helped him to develop his sense of musical drama, but the skillful use of pure blocks of orchestral sound carry his best works into the realm of absolute music. One of music’s great enigmas was his decision to stop composing at the age of 60, even though he lived for another three decades. His music has gone in and out of favor over the years, but he is now widely acknowledged as one of the 20th century’s masters.

Further listening:Violin Concerto (1904/1905)Joshua Bell; Los Angeles Philharmonic,Esa-Pekka Salonen (Sony Classical)

Lemminkäinen Suite (1895)Royal Stockholm Philharmonic,Paavo Järvi (Virgin Classics)