In the midst of the outage, I decamped to New York City to set up a provisional place to work. While there, courtesy of David Nice, I learned about a concert on BBC3 Radio, available for listening only three more days. Had I been in a place without electricity, I’d have missed the concert entirely (along with the plumbing, but we won’t go into that). As it was, I heard only part of it, but to that part I listened repeatedly. The composer's work to which I listened was Sibelius, and one of the pieces was Luonnotar.
All was not lost. As the myth goes, in one translation:
But the eggs and pieces were notIn fewer than ten minutes, Sibelius’s Luonnotar, a symphonic poem for soprano and orchestra, evokes the whole of this creation myth. I gather it’s the devil of a piece to sing, but in a performance like Anu Komsi’s, it’s an exotic and enthralling ride.
Mixed up with the mud and water
For at once the crumbs grew comely
And the pieces beautiful.
One egg’s lower half transformed
And became the earth below,
And its upper half transmuted
And became the sky above;
From the yolk the sun was made,
Light of day to shine upon us;
From the white the moon was formed,
Light of night to gleam above us;
All the colored brighter bits
Rose to be the stars of heaven
And the darker crumbs changed into
Clouds and cloudlets in the sky.
museum devoted to his work.)
Oh, and speaking of houses, I have it on very good authority that the Sibelius house, Ainola, is a treasure trove. But you needn't just take my word for it. Instead, look here (home), here (swan songs), here (tributes), here (portraits) and here (instruments).
Now, of course, I want to go to Finland.
Not in winter, though, I’ll confess.
To hear Luonnotar, sung by Karita Mattila, click here (to avoid the unnecessary weather drama that introduces the piece, start at about :41):
For a Spotify Playlist of Sibelius tone poems and similar works, go to Sibelius Tone Poems & Other Works.
Credits: The image at the head of the post is of Gallen-Kallela's watercolor "Thus she swam the Water-Mother." The quotation from David Nice can be found here. The image of the Sibelius portrait, also by Gallen-Kallela, can be found here. The image of the watercolor, "From the waves her knee uplifted," also by Gallen-Kallela, can be found here. The quotation from the Kalevala can be found here. The images of Lönnrot and Gallen-Kallela can be found here and here. The image of the fresco at the end of the post, also by Gallen-Kallela, can be found here.