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Mark G. Simon
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 19, 2007 10:08 am    Post subject: Lemminkainen Reply with quote

There's no doubt that Tapiola represents Sibelius' greatest achievement in the genre of tone poem.

Nevertheless I have a tremendous fasciantion with the Lemminkainen Suite op . 22, which could have just as easily borne the title "Symphony no. 1" given its structural cohesiveness. I am particularly taken with the first movement, Lemminkainen and the Maidens of Saari, for the "profound logic" with which it builds relentlessly to an overwhelming climax.

The reason this movement isn't as well known as the "Swan" is that he held on to it and kept tinkering with it. His final revision didn't come until 1939 (which probably means we're lucky to have it at all) and I don't believe it was published until late in Sibelius' life, or maybe after his death (can someone tell me which?). May I assume that it remained unperformed from the time of its premiere in the 1890s until its publication in the 1950s? Do any earlier versions of this piece still exist, or did they serve as kindling for the 8th? It would be interesting to see what his 1939 contribution to the piece was, because the structure is incredibly tight. It doesn't sound like an "early work".

In at least one edition of the suite, The Swan of Tuonela is placed third rather than second. This doesn't make sense to me either musically or programatically. To me it makes more sense first to show the swan, then show Lemminkainen going down to Tuonela to kill it, and being killed in the process, and finally have his mother stitch him back together so he can leap on his horse and get the heck out of there. Musically, Lemminkainen's Return has some thematic references to Lemminkainen in Tuonela so I find a greater musical logic in having those two movements sit next to each other.

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PostPosted: Tue Jun 19, 2007 12:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

i love it!

my current versions -

ormandy/philly
vänskä/lahti
sakari/iceland

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 30, 2007 8:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

You are so right Mark, in old age Sibelius could with some justice considerThe Four Legends as a Symphony. The Maidens of the Island and its companion piece Lemminkainen in Tuonela were published in 1954 just three years before the masters death. Osmo Vanska and The Lahti Symphony Orchestra have recorded the Suite including the original versions of No's 1 and 4. Sibelius himself made instructions in 1947 for The Swan to be placed second.
The Lemminkainen Suite does indeed have a facinating history, it was premiered in 1896 and played again a year later in revision. Sibelius again revised The Swan and Lemms Return in 1900 for publication but the remaining movements were withheld and as you say revised as late as 1938--39. The opening Legend Lemm and The Maidens was in fact subject to a very extensive revision and he completely rewrote the score from bar 155 in the revised version to bar 402. So we have almost 250 bars of virtually re-written music. I particuarly love the earlier version of Lemms Return, Sibelius cut some wonderful music from this, some of which he used in 'A Song For Lemminkainen' opus 31.
In a sense Sibelius wrote ten Symphonies if you include Kullervo, The Four Legends and Pohjola's Daughter.--kullervopete.

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 30, 2007 10:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes indeed, Kullervopete has neatly summed up the situation.

It's strange that the original order placed The Swan third. It doesn't fit the story or the musical logic. But so it was.

When the Lahti recording was made, the available information about the original form of Lemminkäinen in Tuonela was patchy to say the least. Since then it has proved possible to reconstruct a score and this has also been recorded by Vänskä and the Lahti orchestra (BIS-CD-1485). The reconstruction, a difficult task given the significant divergences between the score and parts, is by Colin Davis (no, not that Colin Davis) and the recording adds a few more bars which Mr Davis chose to omit but are clearly in the score.

There is no surviving original version of The Swan. In the case of the other three movements is not possible to determine with certainty what belongs to the 1896 original or the 1897 first revision, and so we must proceed with great caution. It seems highly likely, however, that the theme mentioned by Kullervopete, also used in Laulu Lemminkäiselle, remained part of Lemminkäinen's Return until after the 1897 revision. It is thus almost unique in Sibelius's output insofar that he used a theme from a new/current orchestral work in an occasional composition.

It's true that in old age Sibelius said that he regarded the Lemminkäinen Suite and Kullervo as symphonies. Personally I don't (I'll bore you with the reasons if prompted to do so) but I suppose it's a matter of taste. Pohjola's Daughter a symphony? - isn't that going a bit far? If anything its origins were in a quite different genre, the unfinished Marjatta oratorio.

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 30, 2007 11:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Try to forget for a moment Pohjola's Literary associations and indeed for that matter its roots in 'Marjatta'. When we consider the piece as a Symphonic structure, then I would suggest that it evinces qualities that are paralleled only in the Symphonies.
It is indeed highly significant that Sibelius described the work as a 'Symphonic Fantasia'. The work exhibits a continuity of thought, thematic growth and organic coesion that are truely Symphonic.--kullervopete.

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 31, 2007 1:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

You have hit the nail on the head - it is quite essential to forget the literary associations of Pohjola's Daughter, as the 'programme' was only attached to the music at a very late stage, when it was as good as complete.

If you really want to see the work as a symphony, don't let me stop you, although I myself would go no further than JS's (or his publisher Lienau's) own term that you mention, symphonic fantasia. Ultimately it probably doesn't matter what we call these pieces as long as we appreciate them to the full.

There's nothing like a catchy name to help get people interested in a piece, though. See how many string quartets queue up to play the Fugue for Martin Wegelius, JS 85, even though it's a relentless, unforgiving piece that doesn't offer the listener musical rewards commensurate with its difficulty for the players (its cause is further helped by the existence of a modern edition). But the infinitely more polished, stylish and appealing Moderato - Allegro appassionato in C sharp minor, JS 131, is virtually never heard (critical edition is planned but not yet imminent, by the way).

I often wonder if things might have been different if the Moderato -Allegro appassionato had been named 'Kullervo for string quartet' and the first movement of Kullervo had been merely 'Allegro for orchestra'.

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 31, 2007 11:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Facinating stuff indeed Andrew, as regards Pohjola's Daughter dont get me wrong, Knowing the story behind the music can only enhance our enjoyment of it. As we know, it is based on an episode from the Finnish national epic, The Kalevala and it is amazing how Sibelius captures much of the detail. Briefly that great hero Vainamoinen is on his way home from the Northland when he meets the lovely Maid of Pohjola, and falls for her seductive charms. But she declines his request to join him on his homeward journey. To stop his wooing she sets him a number of impossible tasks, such as making a boat from the fragments of her spindle and tying an egg in invisible knots. Vainamoinen sets out with great efforts to carry out these tasks, but alas they prove to difficult even for him, and he is compelled to continue his journey alone, with is tail between his legs. Its all there in the music from the opening cello figure that describes the maiden's spinning wheel, through the magical moment when Vainamoinen looks up and beholds Pohjola's Daughter sitting upon a rainbow.

As this is a Lemminkainen thread, here are a few comments on this great work from the master himself.

I would like us Finns to have a little more pride. Not to be hanging our heads! what is there to be ashamed of? This is an idea that runs through Lemminkainen's Return. Lemminkainen can hold his own with any count or marquis. He is an aristocrat, definitly an aristocrat. [A. O. Vaisanen, article on JS, 1921]

The lullaby at the end of the piece represents maternal love, which rakes up the pieces of Lemminkainen from the river of Tuonela. [To Jussi Jalas, 26th August 1948]

I actually have nine Symphonies, since some of the movements in Kullervo and Lemminkainen are in pure Sonata form. [To Jussi Jalas,June 1957]--kullervopete.

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PostPosted: Sat Sep 01, 2007 12:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well actually Kullervopete my point was quite the opposite. For most of its composition history, what we now know as Pohjola's Daughter was planned as a tone poem on the theme of Luonnotar, the creation myth (musically nothing to do with the later Luonnotar song/tone poem). It was only at the very last moment that the story you mention was attached to the music. Even then the title was supplied by the publisher (Sibelius had wanted to call it 'Wäinämöinen'). So it is certainly not the case that the music was written to depict the sad tale of the [CENSORED] old magician!

I can't deny that the music suits the tale rather well, but that is a fortunate coincidence rather than a long-held intention.

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PostPosted: Sat Sep 01, 2007 2:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Andrew B wrote:
... (Sibelius had wanted to call it 'Wäinämöinen')

Just need to clear up my Kalevala lore a little bit... is Wäinäimöinen the Bard of The Bard?
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 01, 2007 5:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

A fortunate and remarkable coincidence indeed! As I understand it, in Pohjola's Daughter Sibelius's music was most certainly based on canto 8 from the Kalevala, as I have outlined. It fits the music like a glove so why worry about different titles from earlier plans.

It is true that sketches from 1901 show that Sib was working on the Tone poem alongside The Second Symphony. Other sketches include a twenty page continuity draft from late 1905. Some of the material used in Pohjola was going to be used as you say in 'Marjatta' [The virgin Mary] from the final canto of the Kalevala and an orchestral work 'Luonnotar' that later became his tone poem for voice and orchestra. In fact some material was used in the second movement of the Third Symphony and even the second set of Scenes historiques.

As you say it was the publisher who suggested the title 'Pohjola's Daughter' as Sib had 'Vainamoinen' in mind. So if the story was indeed attached at the last minute it was an even more amazing example of programmatic art.

As I understand it kurki, the long bearded Vainamoinen was certainly a bard, he was also something of a wife seeker and of course a singer of legends.--kullervopete.

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PostPosted: Sat Sep 01, 2007 9:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wäinämöinen (nice old spelling!) was not the Bard of The Bard, no. Regarding the inspiration for that little gem, the smart money is probably on a poem by Runeberg. Sibelius denied it, of course, but there's a fair bit of circumstantial evidence.

Just for absolute precision:

Marjatta is the Kalevala counterpart to the Virgin Mary, yes, but the stories are quite different in many ways - one is not a translation of the other.

Sorry if I expressed myself unclearly, but the 1906 Luonnotar (i.e. what became Pohjola's Daughter) had nothing whatsoever musically to do with the later song/tone poem. The only common feature was the name.

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Mark G. Simon
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 03, 2007 7:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Since starting this thread, I've been able to get ahold of the Vänska recording of the early version of L. in Tuonela. I can see why he revised it the way he did, but I have to say that the opening of the original version, with the thematic material presented in the winds in its purest, most unadorned form, makes a very effective opening. I'm kind of sorry to lose that. On the other hand, it's also great the way the revised version sets you immediately down in that frosty Tuonelan air.

The original version also has a lot of music in the middle that got cut from the final version. It's all lovely stuff, but basically more of the same. I think Sibelius was right to trim it down.

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 06, 2007 5:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

As long-time members here have maybe noticed, one of my Sibelian quirks is that I purposely deny myself listening/study knowledge of certain Sibelius pieces... I'm on a self-imposed "Discovery-Schedule", if you will, so that I don't try to devour All of Sibelius All at once.

This said, I fully admit that except for The Swan, I have been wholly ignorant of the Lemminkainen suite, until now.

My first listenings/score study has me quite excited. I'm not sure what exactly I was expecting to find, as I try to keep my mind open and un-preconditioned when listening to music that is new to me... but I certainly wasn't expecting to experience what I did. After several days of concentrated study, I see the suite, especially ... in Tuonela and ... Return as a sort of raw, "Proto-Sibelius". Let me explain: where early orchestral pieces like En Saga, Finlandia and Karelia are simply what they are, early music of a master-to-be, I don't necessarily see them as harbingers of what was to come ( with the exception of the remarkable avoidance of the dominant V in En Saga... )

But not so with Lemminkainen. I see this music as an intimate look into the composer's workshop, raw, unpolished tools that with the advantage of retrospect we recognize in their polished forms in later works. I won't bore you with a list of my opinions of later exponents of what we hear in Lemminkainen, but I will mention 2 jarring examples...

In L. in Tuonela, there are those special places with the anguished chord in the brass that never really resolves... 2nd symphony, 2nd movement.

Also, look up what Andrew B says in his book about the string tremolos... I had the exact same reaction, and that before I cross-referenced my opinions with Andrew's pages 102-103.

Then in L. Return, the arpeggios in the strings and winds at the end sound very much like the end of the first movement of the 5th symphony, with syncopated accentuations to boot. In the 5th, the effect is prolonged with changes of harmony, wheras in L. Return he stays on the tonic... but the grounds for the exciting ending of the 5th's 1st mvmt can be clearly heard here.

I could go on, but I won't... I think I'll just go and listen to it again!

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 13, 2007 9:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have already refered to my love of the original version of Lemms Return earlier in this thread. In fact I have developed an increasing preference for Sibelius's first thoughts in a number of inportant works.
Examples being, the 1915 version of the 5th finale, Violin Concerto [1903-4] version and the original En Saga which apparently Aino Sibelius prefered.
Now to this list I must add the original 1895 version of Lemminkainens Return. When we get to the point in the later version were the music comes swiftly to a close, in the earlier one we hear the great theme that Sibelius was to use in 'A Song for Lemminkainen' and what follows on from this is amongst the most magnificent music that Sib ever wrote. It reminds me in places of the 5th Symphonies original finale.
Kurki, if you are not familiar with the original, seek out Vanska's recording.--kullervopete,

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 16, 2009 2:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lemmikäinen is one of my Sibelius favorite works. It's a magical music, with a lot of passion and colour.

Nowdays I'm writing about it in my blog.

I have a question for the experts: the first tone poem, is it based on the Kalevala's Runo XI or XXIX? Or maybe both of them?

I think that both stories had the same folcloric origin, the same tale in two versions that Lönnrot can hear. It's quite usual in the folcloric tales and legends. Both Lemmikäinen cycles (XI-XV, XXVI-XXX) are diferent stories, with its own beginning and end, I think that Lönnrot was the responsable to join them.

Did Sibelius say anything about the right literary inspiration in "Lemminkäinen and the Island's Maidens"?

Also I'd like to know your opinion about your favorite order of the suite (taste or intelectual opinion). Must "The Swan of Tuonela" be in the second or the third play?

I like more the original order. The tonal plan is perfect (Eb - f# (=gb) - a - c/Eb, the proportions too (the duration of I is quite similar to II, and III+IV too), the emotional impact is greatest with "The Swan" like an intermezzo or introduction to IV, etc.
Acording my personal taste I prefer this order.

And you?

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 17, 2009 11:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi David, you ask some interesting questions. I do believe that the first Legend 'Lemminkainen and the maidens of Saari' is drawn from both Runes X1 and XX1X. Sibelius changed the order of Lemminkainen in Tuonela and The Swan in 1947 and I think that we should respect his judgement. It certainly works for me. The first and fourth Legends share the same key--E flat major and this contrasts well with the A minor of The Swan and the F sharp minor of Lemminkainen in Tuonela. I certainly share your enthusiasm for these four Tone poems, and one can see how in old age, JS looked on the work as a Symphony.--kp

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PostPosted: Fri Dec 18, 2009 3:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think it's fair to say that JS treated the musical adaptation of the story quite freely - after all, to some extent the music was planned for the Veneen luominen opera anyway. At the first performance the programme referred to Runo XXIX, lines 1, 77–78, 223–26, 345, 347–50, 357–60 for this movement, but that is not conclusive evidence that these lines are the only source.

As for the order, I agree with KP that the revised order should probably be respected, not least because the story is otherwise messed up.

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PostPosted: Sun Dec 20, 2009 12:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you for your answers.

Andrew B., thank you for the right information about the first legend. Are there right references for Lemminkäinen in Tuonela? Acording my studies, the tone poems revised in 1900 have a program in the published score, and the ones in 1939? No, I think.

About the order you are right of course, but, in another point of view we sibelians don't use to respect all the Sibelius wills! He could be ashamed that we hear a lot of times Kullervo (I do it very very times), original versions, not published works, and (I can hear Sibelius claiming "oh my God") student music and fragments.

The original order are too in many of the best recordings: Kamu, Segerstam...

I heared the Horst Stein recording this week... It's pretty good! But sometimes it sound too much close to Wagner or Liszt!

Really I consider this work like one of the Sibelius best ones. It's true, it's almost a symphony!

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PostPosted: Sun Dec 20, 2009 11:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I prefer Sibelius's revised order. If for nothing else, the story makes more sense this way. But David is right, there are good recordings which feature the original order: Segerstam and Sakari come to mind.

BUT, I have a hard time accepting Lemminkainen as a symphony per se, the same way I have trouble accepting Kullervo as a real symphony. If we are to take Sibbe at his word that the four Lemminkainen legends should be heard in their revised order, I think we should also take into consideration that he never officially numbered or called Kullervo or Lemminkainen a symphony. He did acknowledge that some thought of those works as symphonies, but he never said distinctively, as far as I know, that they were.

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 21, 2009 9:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Tapkaara wrote:


BUT, I have a hard time accepting Lemminkainen as a symphony per se, the same way I have trouble accepting Kullervo as a real symphony. If we are to take Sibbe at his word that the four Lemminkainen legends should be heard in their revised order, I think we should also take into consideration that he never officially numbered or called Kullervo or Lemminkainen a symphony. He did acknowledge that some thought of those works as symphonies, but he never said distinctively, as far as I know, that they were.


I have no doubt that Sibelius shrank from calling Kullervo a symphony on the title-page of the score because of its programme, but I have a question for all you Mahlerites on the forum: Do you consider his 'Resurrection' symphony No.2 in C minor to be a fully fledged symphony? If so, then surely Sibelius's 'Kullervo symphony' can be so described. Surprised --kp

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