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FastNotes

  • Sibelius was trained as a violinist, although he never became a virtuoso performer. As such, he wrote several works featuring his instrument, including one of the most popular concertos of the 20th century.

  • He also wrote a number of small pieces for violin and piano, and for violin and orchestra he composed the Two Serenades of Op. 69, two pieces with Latin subtitles (Op. 77), and these Six Humoresques.

  • The Humoresques are quite substantial in creative inspiration and in the technique required of the soloist. They were composed in 1917 and premiered in Helsinki two years later by Paul Cherkassky, with the composer conducting.

  • There is great and highly individual charm throughout, and much playfulness and dancing, although the third is gently melancholic and the finale turns to deep introspection. 


Composed: 1917
Length: c. 20 minutes
Orchestration: 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, timpani, strings, and solo violin
First LA Phil performances

Sibelius was trained as a violinist, although he never became a virtuoso performer. He started late on the instrument and gave up his ambitions late: he auditioned, unsuccessfully, for a place in the Vienna Philharmonic when he was 26, and when he was 50 could still write in his diary, “Dreamed I was twelve years old and a virtuoso.”

Not surprising, Sibelius wrote several works featuring his instrument, including one of the most popular concertos of the 20th century. At the time of that diary entry, in fact, and in the years immediately following, he was quite busy with music for violin. He wrote a number of small pieces for violin and piano, and for violin and orchestra he composed the Two Serenades of Op. 69, two pieces with Latin subtitles (Op. 77), and these Six Humoresques.

Some of these are genre pieces, small in conception as in length. But the Humoresques are quite substantial in creative inspiration and in the technique required of the soloist. They were composed in 1917 (as a set; the two opus numbers are the result of an error) and premiered in Helsinki two years later by Paul Cherkassky, with the composer conducting, on a program with the final version of Sibelius’ Fifth Symphony. (Born in Odessa in 1891, Cherkassky moved to the U.S. in 1923, becoming a member of the Boston Symphony for 30 years, and later a U.S. citizen and a regular guest conductor of the Boston Pops for Arthur Fielder.) There is great and highly individual charm throughout, and much playfulness and dancing, although the third is gently melancholic and the finale turns to deep introspection. – John Henken