We are all no doubt familiar with the staples of Schubert and Schumann, but with 109 songs spanning his entire compositional career, the Finnish composer Sibelius spoils us with a huge variety of exceptional vocal music. Presented as individual songs, in collections and as cycles on topics from Christmas through Astronomy to a young lover’s first kiss, Sibelius set texts in a variety of languages; his songs deserve as much recognition across the world as they enjoy in Scandinavia, and what better time to rediscover them than his anniversary year?
The songs became popular from their first performance, with performers, critics and public alike. Music scholars too have regarded the songs as having a central place in Sibelius’s output. The international success of the works has been limited for reasons of language – the majority of the songs are in Swedish – but in Scandinavia and especially in Finland they have gained a permanent place in the solo repertoire.
In 2015, the year of Sibelius’ 150th birthday, take the opportunity to work on some of his beautiful songs, in the original language or translation. We will set them against the songs of two of the biggest hitters in the repertoire, Schubert and Schumann, to see how they compare.
Ian Partridge is one of Britain’s leading lyric tenors. His wide repertoire has encompassed the music of Monteverdi, Bach and Handel, the Elizabethan lute songs, German, French and English songs and first performances of new works. He appeared regularly as soloist with major choirs and orchestras in Britain and throughout the rest of the world, and in recitals he was frequently accompanied by his sister, Jennifer Partridge.
He is a professor at the Royal Academy of Music, and was awarded the CBE in 1992 for services to music. Ian retired from singing end of 2008, but continues to teach, give masterclasses and adjudicate.
Join Ian at Jackdaws in the beautiful Vallis Vale to explore the songs in a perfect setting; Sibelius loved nature, and the Finnish landscape often served as material for his music. On the subject of Sibelius’ ties to nature, one biographer of the composer, Erik W. Tawaststjerna, wrote the following:
“Even by Nordic standards, Sibelius responded with exceptional intensity to the moods of nature and the changes in the seasons: he scanned the skies with his binoculars for the geese flying over the lake ice, listened to the screech of the cranes, and heard the cries of the curlew echo over the marshy grounds just below Ainola. He savoured the spring blossoms every bit as much as he did autumnal scents and colours”.