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Andante Festivo
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 12, 2008 9:48 pm    Post subject: Andante Festivo Reply with quote

I've seen scarcely any mention of this piece on the forums (except for the fact that Sibelius recorded it as his only recording), so I figured I'd ask what people thought of it in general.

Personally, I like it quite a lot. It actually is what started me on Sibelius' music. It's just the beauty of the music that got me here, and I found a different kind of beauty in his other music, which only increased my respect for his music. Any other thoughts on this piece?
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 13, 2008 3:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Andante Festivo as an introduction to Sibelius is fascinating. World Violist, can I ask you to post about that in
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thread? The thread exists to let people tell us about how they discovered Sibelius, I'm interested in how you came upon that piece before the "big ones".

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 15, 2008 10:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Andante Festivo is indeed a moving piece. It actually started life as a String Quartet, JS 34a [1922] Sibelius had been commisioned to write a work for the 25th year celebration of a sawmill in Finland and produced the quartet. When Sibelius's Niece Riita Sibelius was wed in 1929 the piece was performed by two string quartets. In 1938 Sibelius arranged his Andante Festivo for string orchestra and timpani and conducted a moving broadcast performance to the Newyork World Exhibition on newyears day 1939. After just one rehearsal Sibelius told the players 'Play with more humanity' and the music came wonderfully to life. Be aware that for many years a recording in circlulation was not by Sibelius--see Andrew B's post on this in the Biographical Discussion section 'Conductors'

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 15, 2008 1:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The thread that kullervopete mentions is
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.

Also in that same thread and same post, Andrew B clarifies the story of Sibelius' inebriated performance, which was NOT of the 7th Symphony, contrary to popular belief.
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2008 10:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sibelius once remarked that musical themes were the most precious property of a composer.
Its facinating that Sibelius used the themes from his Andante Festivo in two other pieces. Some time ago I was listening to some of Sibs piano music on the radio and was suddenly taken aback by the strains of the opening theme from the Andante Festivo. The piece was 'The Village Church' opus 103, No. 1, from 'Five Characteristic Impressions'[1924]
It seems that Sibelius also used the second theme from Festivo in his 'Masonic Ritual Music' [1927, 1938 and 1946] the theme was used in 'Varje Sjal Som Langtan Banner' [Whosoever hath a love]
Good examples of Sibelius re-cycling some of his precious themes.
kullervopete.

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 16, 2008 1:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes, true, good examples — and also rare examples. In the few instances where he did recycle themes, it was almost always from pieces that had sunk without trace — either never -yet- performed, such as the finale of the Piano Quintet (in the first piano Impromptu), or occasional pieces that he would quite legitimately expect not to be performed again, such as Svartsjukans nätter (in the Impromptu for Strings) or the Overture in A minor (in Voces Intimae, finale).

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 17, 2008 6:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have always sensed a religious flavour in many of Sibelius's works and particuarly the Andante Festivo, so the fact that he used the theme in 'The Village Church' piano piece reinforced this belief. It is not surprising then that for his Nieces wedding he selected Festivo. Sibelius is not generally thought of as a religious composer, but I think this thread runs deeper in his works than is sometimes thought.--kullervopete.

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 18, 2008 11:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've always thought of Sibelius as someone who wrote from the soul... not necessarily religious music, but from the heart and nature. Certainly this is one prime example.
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 19, 2008 11:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think we can agree on that.
Sibelius was once asked if he had ever considered writing Church music. He replyed that it always seemed to him that to compose sacred music in the light of Bach's mighty life-work was quite pointless.
Edward Clark, who is President of the UK Sibelius Society once defined the three periods in Sibelius's creative life as 'Religious' 1902-1910, 'Pantheistic' 1915-1919 and 'Tragic' 1920 onwards.
We know that in his Diary 'God' is a constant theme, ie after the final version of the 5th Symphony was finished, Sibelius wrote 'I have struggled with God'.
In recent years, Scholars have found evidence of a Religious inspiration behind most of the major works from the first decade of the 20th Century. In Timo Virtanen's PH.d Thesis on the 3rd Symphony he connects the second [1902] and third [1907] and Night Ride and Sunrise [1909] as works all deriving from a particular aspect of Christianity.
An uncompleted Oratorio 'Marjatta' was to be a choral work, with a Libretto based on the elemental mysteries of the Christian faith, of Christs birth from a virgin and his death and resurrection.
Its possible that the 3rd Symphony bears reminiscences of this Libretto and the mysteries behind it.
Early in the slow movement of the second Symphony, Sibelius wrote 'Christus' above a theme. Even at the end of the fourth Symphony, the oboe tune has been described as St Peters Thrice Denial'
During the second world war, Sibelius said 'How much pathos there is in our time...we are approaching the foreseen Religious era. But it is impossible to define a Religion-least of all in words. But perhaps music is a mirror'.--kullervopete.

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 20, 2008 3:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

kullervopete wrote:
In Timo Virtanen's PH.d Thesis on the 3rd Symphony he connects the second [1902] and third [1907] and Night Ride and Sunrise [1909] as works all deriving from a particular aspect of Christianity.

I wonder if this idea comes from musical analysis, more specifically, tying musical ideas to extramusical meanings, or if it comes from little clues that Siblelius left behind, like the connection with the abandonned oratorio you mention, the "Christus" marking, and more. Any idea what the Christian element in Night Ride is? I have always thought that the melody in the winds that finally enters above the galloping sounds somewhat prayer-like...

kullervopete wrote:
An uncompleted Oratorio 'Marjatta' was to be a choral work, with a Libretto based on the elemental mysteries of the Christian faith, of Christs birth from a virgin and his death and resurrection.

Just a small point for readers who may not know, this Marjatta story is the final Runo of the Kalevala.

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 20, 2008 9:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Recent research has revealed a connection between Sibelius's earlier thematic idea's and every major work written during the decade ]1900-1910]
Virtanen found that earlier sketches found their way into The Third Symphony, Pohjola's Daughter, Night Ride and Sunrise, Voces Intimae and In Memoriam.
Interestingly Sibelius heard a performance of Franz Liiszt's Oratorio 'Christus' during one of his visits to Berlin--could this experience have found its way into parts of the Second Symphony?
Edward Clark suggests that perhaps Sibelius saw a connection between the Sunrise of the Symphonic Poem, the outburst of the final Hymn of the Third Symphony and the enthusiastic vision of Resurrection in 'Marjatta', where the sun, transfigured as an Eagle, descends on Christs grave, opens it, and releases the Creator from death.
So although Sibelius's overwhelming vision in many of his great orchestral works is essentially Pantheistic, I believe that the Religious element as been underestimated.

'How a man can get along without religion I can't understand. Life is full of enigmas, and the older I grow the more I perceive how precious little we actually know. The mysteries are always increasing'--Jean Sibelius.
-kullervopete.

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 20, 2008 10:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Kurkikohtaus wrote:
Just a small point for readers who may not know, this Marjatta story is the final Runo of the Kalevala.


And that particular runo is about a virgin birth, I think, right? Anyway...

I don't totally deny Andante Festivo's origins from Christianity. It's just that there is a line between being "religious" and being "spiritual."

What are the really good recordings of this? I'll probably buy the Sibelius recording anyway, considering... but others? It really is recorded too little, in my opinion. They could at LEAST use it as filler or something, but NO, those people have to waste a perfectly fine 5-6 minutes by not recording Andante Festivo... oh well. Rant over.
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 21, 2008 12:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

World Violist, I think you make a very good point about the distinction between 'religious' and ' spiritual'. As for the other works, well, Marjatta was abandoned and anything that originated from there will have undergone a vast transformation before landing up in, say, the Third Symphony. In other words, the Third is no more a religious work than the Fourth is a portrayal of Koli (or the Second of the Divine Comedy/'Christus') - and I think that leading Sibelians such as Timo Virtanen (Kullervopete's post, q.v.) would certainly agree. In Sibelius more than with many composers there can be a vast distance between the source of inspiration and the end product. But some of the other sources mentioned by Kullervopete tend to see the music very much from their own subjective cultural perspective rather than in the impartial light of logic and fact.

Good recordings of Andante festivo: naturally I quite like the one by Osmo Vänskä (BIS), though I do wish it was a touch more expansive. Try also the original quartet version (Tempera Quartet - BIS). Jussi Jalas 's version (Decca) has to my ears great nobility. But the one by William Boughton (Nimbus, I think) is a big joke, a sort of Allegro festivo

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 21, 2008 7:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Andrew B makes some salient points regarding 'Marjatta' and the 3rd and 4th Symphonies. But of course the danger of looking at the great works of Sibelius only in 'the impartial light of logic and fact' can blind us from the poetic dimension. I would maintain that although Sibelius is not an overtly religious composer, their is a quality in the master's greatest works that can be described as 'sacred'. This is not to infer that 'Andante Festivo' is necessarily Christian in origin any more than the Third Smphonies Finale celebrates the resurrection of Christ.
Of course Sibelius's practice of jotting down sketches to utilize in later works carried on. From the time that he was planning the Fifth Symphony, Sibelius kept sketches of often unbarred melodies and motives into a rudimentary table, for possible use in a future work.
As an example, two motives were considered in one sketch book for the aborted Symphonic Poem 'Kuutar' but they eventually finished up in the 6th Symphony. His sketch books are like the pieces of an enormous jigsaw, with idea's continuously being moved too and thro.--kullervopete.

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 21, 2008 9:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think we have broad agreement here. By all means let's recognize - and enjoy - the poetic aspects of the music. I would maybe add, though, that the recognition and appreciation of poetry presupposes a subjectivity of response. Which is fine by me; indeed, if it didn't exist, what would be the point of music?

But in one respect we should be wary. Personally (and I imagine you will all share this view) I don't like to be told how I should react to the music I hear. In some articles (N.B. this does not apply to any contributors on the Forum!) where totally alien cultural values are imposed on poor Sibelius. In those, it is though the author has a set of beliefs, religious or otherwise, and presumes that Sibelius had identical tastes and priorities - even though he may be writing in a totally different environment from Finland of the 1880s–1920s. To reduce such an argument to its bones, some people write: 'When I hear the music it brings XYZ to mind, so Sibelius must have had the same XYZ in mind when he wrote it'. That is a dangerous path to tread: everybody will hear the music differently and will react to it according to his/her experiences and tastes. That, I believe, is one of music's great strengths.

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 20, 2008 10:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Andante Festivo is a real special piece for me. It is one of the first Sibelius pieces I ever encountered and I am still moved to goosebumps EVERY time I hear it. It is such a simple, unassuming little piece but the melody is just so touching. I believe that Andante Festivo is a much overlooked masterpiece.

Ah yes, the famous World's Fair recording mix-up. I've heard both the ACTUAL Sibelius recording and the other one that tunred out to be a rehearsal by another Finnish conductor (whose name escapes me at this moment).

The "wrong recording" is actually an excellent one in and of itself and it seems to be dismissed because it wasn't the one actually conducted by Sibelius. Does anyone else find this to be a very movng interpretation of Andante Festivo as I do? (Anything is better than Boughton's!!)

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 21, 2008 1:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Toivo Haapanen, I think it was - and yes, it is also impressive.
Recently I heard a radio recording from 1946 of him conducting the Romance in C (Op. 42) with the same orchestra and it was also pretty good - expresive, communicative and very flexible in tempo but without any ugly gearchanges.

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 21, 2008 1:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Toivo Haapanen...that's the guy!

I'm sure his reading of the Romance in C is very good if his Andante Festivo is any indication of his talents.

Tried googling herra Haapanen...can't find too much info on him. I suppose he was obscure, even in his day?

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 21, 2008 10:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote


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Here is Sibelius on his way to conduct his Andante Festivo.

I have come across a first hand account of Sibelius rehearsing the orchestra. Toivo Haapanen, the conductor handed Sibelius the baton, and he ran through the work once, then it was taped. Recalled Sulo Aro, leader of the orchestra 'He gave a nod to indicate the start and conducted with his hand either in his jacket or his trouser pocket. With his other hand he traced grand gestures so the shaking would not matter.
The distinguished Horn player Holger Fransman was present on the occasion. 'Its scored for String Orchestra, so the wind and brass sections had nothing to do. We nevertheless hung around since Sib himself was conducting. His hands were shaking, but it didn't really matter, he grasped the baton like this with both hands, raised it above his head and only then let one hand go. So this was a fine start. The maestro wasn't really a conductor, but all the beats were exactly according to the rules'.
Martti Pajanne [Viola player] in the Helsinki P. O. [1946-74] who interviewed the musicians, reported that the orchestra played in rehearsal 'with a thicker, more singing sound than usual'. The composers daughter, Katarina Ilves, was likewise impressed. 'After the first bars at the rehearsal, Father broke off and said 'much more poetic, much more poetic'. It was as if he had cast a stone in a pool and the ripple were spreading. The orchestra sounded quite different. It was really impressive, it just showed the personal magnetism he must have had because he managed to make even the 'blind' see when he was abroad. Maybe its not just a conductors art, but suggestion'.
Some of the suggestion is captured even in the scratchy recording. The Strings sing, though the sound is slightly raw. The performance really does sound as if it had been taped after only one rehearsal. Sibelius keeps the basic tempo as a true professional should, both at the rehearsal and the performance, and makes natural Rubatos, and being the composer, he is allowed to deviate considerably from the score markings every now and then. The tempo is notably slow; nearly six minutes, whereas he himself marked five minutes in the score. Jorma Panula has done it in 3'-38, Mariss Janson's in 4'-22, Jussi Jalas in 4'-56 and Nils-Eric Fougstedt in 5'-00.--kullervopete.

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PostPosted: Sat Sep 27, 2008 12:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

ZSO ML will be performing Andante Festivo on Friday October 10th, it will be my first performance of the work. Sibelius' recorded performance, the dynamic indications in the score and the quote diplayed below, taken from
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page at the sibelius.fi website leave me at somewhat of a loss...

www.sibelius.fi wrote:
During the 1930s Sibelius spent a lot of time listening to the radio. The imperfections of the loudspeakers of the time annoyed him, leading him to think that one should compose differently for the radio than for live concerts ... In 1939 Sibelius prepared a version of the Andante festivo for string orchestra and timpani with the broadcast in mind.


Does anybody have any guesses as to in what way Sibelius wrote "differently" for radio broadcasts? Based on the score, my guess would be that he felt louder playing was needed, as there are many forte and fortissimo marks in the score, along with forte assai and even forte dolce. The quietest "real" dynamic is mezzo-forte, but then there are several "meno" markings that one could take the liberty to interpret as "piano."

The engima in my mind comes from his markings of the Contrabass line, which is often marked at a much lower dynamic than the rest of the strings, for instance piano at the beginning and mezzo-piano later on.

The question then is, did he really want a softer sound from the basses, or was this marking supposed to result in what he expected to be an overall balanced string sound when heard over the radio, compensating for his perception of the technological imperfections of the day?

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