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Jean Sibelius & Veijo Murtomäki

Johan Christian Julius “Jean” Sibelius

Born December 8, 1865 Hämeenlinna. Died September 20, 1957, Järvenpää

The most internationally renowned and performed Finnish composer

Studies in law at the Imperial Alexander University 1885
Studies at the Helsinki Music Institute (today Sibelius Academy) and further studies abroad.
Honorary PhD 1914, honorary professor 1916, Imperial Alexander University

Key works:
Seven symphonies, a violin concerto and the orchestral works Finlandia, the Karelia Suite, The Swan of Tuonela (part of the Lemminkäinen Suite) and Valse triste. Vocal, choir and piano music, theatre music and chamber music. His last great works were Symphony No. 7 (1924), the theatre piece The Tempest (1926) and the symphonic poem Tapiola (1926)

A list of the works of Jean Sibelius

Veijo Tapio Murtomäki
Born July 26, 1954, Pyhäjärvi

Bachelor of Arts 1977 (musicology), University of Jyväskylä
Diploma in music theory 1980, Sibelius Academy
PhD 1991 (musicology), University of Helsinki
Doctoral dissertation: Symphonic Unity: the Development of Formal thinking in the Symphonies of Sibelius

Professor of music history 1991–, Sibelius Academy
Associate professor of music history 1989–91, Sibelius Academy
Lecturer of music theory 1983–89, Sibelius Academy
Research associate (extraordinary) in musicology 1982–83, University of Helsinki

Research themes: Sibelius as the subject of musical analysis and as a patriot and supporter of collaboration with Germany 1918–44

Publications, research projects and other academic activity

Knight, First Class, of the Order of the Lion of Finland

Photo: Helsingin yliopistomuseo
Written by Veijo Murtomäki and Olli Siitonen (Kaija Hartikainen and Tiia Niemelä, ed.)

Translated by Matthew Billington

Sibelius is more than just music

It may be a cliché for a Finn to be a researcher of Jean Sibelius, since that may arouse suspicions of picking an “easy” subject. But first impressions can be deceiving. Sibelius’s music in the juncture between Romanticism and 20th Century Modernism provides an inexhaustible and challenging field of research, since defining the music and the tools it requires are anything but simple – especially since from the perspective of Modernism Sibelius would count as a backward-looking conservative, which while a clear misinterpretation, does require from researchers a readiness for critical debate.

Jean Sibelius in 1939. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The music of Sibelius cannot be separated from the cultural historical and political context of its time, but in addition music is defined by the needs and receptive habits bound up with the cultural context of each nation. Thus, Sibelius’s relationship with the rest of the cultural scene and its major figures, as well as major players in economics and politics, assume an ever more central role. His international contacts gain more significance in his search for his own idiom amongst the conflicting stylistic ideals of his era.

Sibelius is a national icon, and in pivotal stages of Finnish history, such as the Russification campaigns and the Civil War, he actively worked to shape the future of the nation, including working to promote the Finnish state. This makes his actions and profile ever more fascinating for historians. Thus, the position and activities of Sibelius have also influenced how his music is viewed. Music research turns into historical research.

Dr Veijo Murtomäki with Jean Sibelius monument, Korppoo, summer 2014.
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