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Belshazzar's Feast

 
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kullervopete
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 20, 2007 7:57 am    Post subject: Belshazzar's Feast Reply with quote

Sibelius's music is closely bound up with the Northern ethos, the forests and lakes of Finland. But in 1906 Sibelius turned to the far east with his music for Procope's 'Belshazzar's Feast'.
Sibelius conjures up an oriental atmosphere at the court of Babylon. This is a marvellous score, including 'Solitude' with its gentle string ostinato and gems like 'night music' and 'Khadra's dance'. But in the opening 'Oriental Procession' do we have a Finn masquerading as a Babylonian or does Sibelius sucessfully enter into this exotic world?.--kullervopete.

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david johnson
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 20, 2007 11:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

it just sounds like sibelius to me.

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Andrew B
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 20, 2007 12:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I agree with dj.

A slice of lemon doesn't turn a gin and tonic into a lemonade (believe me, I write from plentiful experience); a bit of Orientalism doesn't turn Sibelius into a Middle Easterner... any more than it did in Nielsen's case (Aladdin).

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kullervopete
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 20, 2007 2:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It seems that both dj and Andrew B are missing the point here.
Let me put it another way, just as Rodrigo seems to encapsulate all that is Spain, so Sibelius has been identified with the far North.
Now, Does Sibelius succeed in fully invoking the atmosphere of Belshazzar and the oriental while remaining true to himself.
I think that he does.--kullervopete.

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PostPosted: Wed Nov 21, 2007 6:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have to disagree on that point, unfortunately, I don't like the Belshazzar music precisely for the reason that to me, it sounds like a foreigner imitating an idiom rather than becoming one with it. I think Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherezade is much closer to this ideal of remaining true to one's self while "fully invoking" a specific (foreign/exotic) atmosphere.

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kullervopete
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 21, 2007 9:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I can respect this point of view, certainly I can't ever see Sibelius attempting a work like Rimsky's 'Antar' Symphony. Sibelius did not think naturely in this idiom. But in the context of his friend Procopes rather feeble play 'Belshazzar's Feast', Sibelius's music probably carried it single handed. Sibelius certainly thought highly enough of the score to draw up the concert suite. Incidentally, anyone familier with William Waltons work of the same name.--kullervopete.

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PostPosted: Wed Nov 21, 2007 1:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes, Sibelius did indeed think highly of it - at least, so he wrote to [his publisher] Robert Lienau. And of course it was rather an incentive that Lienau was prepared to publish a concert suite as well.

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kullervopete
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 22, 2007 10:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lets not forget that Sibelius moved away from the frozen lakes of the north in a number of other equally attractive pieces.
Take 'Festivo', the third of the first set of 'Scenes Historiques' opus 25. This has a decidedly Spanish atmosphere, the tableau that accompanied it was set in the court of a 16th century Swedish governer, whose wife was Spanish. Sibelius indicates 'tempo di Bolero' and he is quite at home with the use of castanets.
In March 1904, at a fund raising event in Helsinki, Sibelius conducted his 'Musik zu einer scene' [Dreams of a Southern Palm]
It is a facinating blend of Nordic passion and Mediterranean sun. If anyone suggests that Sibelius never left the gloomy forests of Finland, play this to them! [Vanska, Lahti S. O. Bis Cd 1445]--kullervopete.


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PostPosted: Sat Nov 24, 2007 4:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

kullervopete wrote:
It seems that both dj and Andrew B are missing the point here.
Let me put it another way, just as Rodrigo seems to encapsulate all that is Spain, so Sibelius has been identified with the far North.
Now, Does Sibelius succeed in fully invoking the atmosphere of Belshazzar and the oriental while remaining true to himself.
I think that he does.--kullervopete.


no, he's just himself.
belshazzar would have been babylonian rather than 'oriental'.

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Kurkikohtaus
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 24, 2007 6:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I suppose for the sake of this discussion, "Oriental" means anything east of Hungary. Wink
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kullervopete
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 07, 2008 11:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I mentioned 'Festivo' earlier and I have just come across an interesting review of this very piece given at an Henry Wood Promenade concert in 1959.

'Sibelius, the so-called maligned and out of favour Finn, occupied most of the Prom programme on Aug. 20th. The Festivo from his Scenes Historiques, sounded, in a somewhat drab performance, once again a tedious piece which shows that Sibelius could, at times, write as bad music as any other great composer-The thought and indeed sound of the Finn, masquerading quasi bolero in the plains of Spain yet still unmistakeably him-self, has unfortunately too many comic implications'.

The reviewer was one Robert Angles writing in 'Music and Musicians'. I would think that the conductor on that occasion was Sir Malcolm Sargent, a very fine Sibelian who was conducting The Fifth Symphony in Helsinki when the master passed away.
I love Sibelius's 'Scenes Historiques' and the bolero is wonderfully evocative.--kullervopete.

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 07, 2008 11:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just shows how fashions change, doesn't it.

You know, there are people around, even today, who are so caught up in their own Wagner-fuelled delusions about Sibelius that they can't appreciate works such as the Korpo Trio... now how dumb is that...?

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kullervopete
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 07, 2008 2:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oddly enough, its only in the last few years that I have become aware of what might be called the 'Sibelius-Wagner' syndrome.
Critics seem to enjoy imagining elements of Wagner in just about everything from Korpo to Tapiola.
Maybe Sibelius's denial of drinking at the Wagnerian fountain has put a bee in the bonnet of these gibberish critics.--kullervopete.

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 21, 2013 7:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for kullervopete´s hint at "Musik zu einer Scene". I´m just listening to it now, didn´t remember that work at all. Somebody there has written: "Amazing. Is that really Sibelius?".

I would say: In the beginning it takes the listener five seconds to identify our man. The mediterraenien part is indeed hardly Sibelian.
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 23, 2013 1:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

inthepast wrote:
In the beginning it takes the listener five seconds to identify our man.


Less than five. The first chord heard is a half-diminished-7th.
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inthepast
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 23, 2013 6:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Right!! Has he got the copyright for the half-diminished-7th? But I much more meant the overall "sound" of the orchestra, it´s mixture.

Sibelius = Specific harmonic and rhythmic devices + a certain sound, that is a very specific blend. But this might hold true of almost every famous composer. But, the mere fact, that a composer is easily recognizable, doesn´t necessarily make him a good one, of course.

Concerning this, here´s a list of composers, that I recognize almost "in a second":

JSBach, Holst, Janacek, Debussy, Allan Pettersson, Pärt, Vivaldi, Mahler, Gerald Finzi, Brahms, Webern, Harry Partch, Bartok.
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