Sib1 Intro

Severance Hall
February 6 – Thursday at 7:30 p.m. 

February 8 – Saturday at 8:00 p.m.


Modern Voices & Sounds

All music is, of course, new when first written.  Yet some pieces and some composers are more groundbreaking than others.  Some music still sounds new, even years after it was written.  While other works or songs sound like comfortably old-fashioned friends from the very first hearing.  

This week’s concert offers two composers who often worked at the cutting edge throughout their careers, fashioning music that pushed boundaries without ever being alienating or filled with mere gimmicks.  The music we hear is separated by a hundred years, but the spirit within is a shared daring and caring about music’s ability to communicate anew in our ever-changing world.

Finnish composer Jean Sibelius originally wanted to be a violinist, but realized at conservatory that he either wasn’t good enough or, perhaps, that he was a little too lazy for all the practicing required.  Instead, he shifted his sights to writing music, creating a body of work both grounded in his homeland’s storytelling (ancient myths and the modern fight for countryhood) and focused squarely on advancing music’s vocabulary into a new century.

This weeks’ concerts present two works by Sibelius, the brief tone poem En Saga (translated as “A Legend” or “A Fairytale”) from 1892 and his First Symphony from 1899.  Both are early Sibelius, yet clearly demarcate and preview the journey he was to follow as a composer, distilling music into a modern but welcoming language, big-voiced and startlingly true.

In between, guest soloist Leila Josefowicz joins with conductor Susanna Mälkki for a Violin Concerto from 2002, written by British composer Oliver Knussen.  Knussen was a unique figure in modern musical circles, as a composer, conductor, and creative mentor.  He was a perfectionist who completed few pieces.  He wrote for adults and for young people.  Each piece he premiered creates a special soundworld worth listening to.

  Eric Sellen