Postcard from Finland no.1
I’ve just spent a wonderful musical week at the Sibelius Festival in Lahti, Finland. Lahti is a small city about 100km north of Helsinki and located on the shore of a very big lake. Right by the lake is the Sibelius Hall, a beautiful structure which melds an old industrial brick building with a brand-new glass box in which is housed a modern wooden concert hall with superb acoustics. The two are joined by the Forest Hall foyer which has enormous glass frontage through which you can see the lake and sky, and staircases that look like trees branching upward.
The Sibelius Festival is held every year and usually lasts about three and a half days (three evening concerts, several chamber concerts in the day and some talks). It is entirely dedicated to the music of Jean Sibelius (1865-1957) who is Finland’s national composer. This year the Festival ran for seven days to mark the 150th anniversary of his birth. I’ve been twice before, but this year’s was unmissable.
During the week we heard all seven symphonies, the 75 minute choral epic Kullervo, the violin concerto, the Lemminkainen suite, The Wood Nymph, Luonnatar and the tone poems Tapiola, The Bard, The Oceanides, Pohjola’s Daughter, and En Saga, and several shorter pieces. If you don’t know Sibelius’ music the tone poems are a good place to start as they are generally between 8-20 minutes long and in a single movement. They’re all highly atmospheric.
More stories from the Festival in the next few days.