Walter Mencken 11 a.m., May 24
Ice Ice Baby
So what of this Sibelius and his 1st Symphony sounding like Tchaikovsky's 7th?
When Sibelius premiered his 1st Symphony in 1899, some critics responded that its orchestral vocabulary sounded like Tchaikovsky, and they were right.
Tchaikovsky wrote six symphonies. When Sibelius wrote his first, he was still a young composer and had yet to find that quintessential Nordic style for which he is remembered.
Whether or not the Tchaikovsky 7th is a compliment is open for discussion.
The scherzo section of this symphony sounds like Ice, Ice, Baby by Vanilla Ice--I'm just saying. Ice is appropriate when discussing a Finnish composer.
The opening theme of the first movement is played on solo clarinet and has that cold, lonely, Russian atmosphere that we often find in Tchaikovsky.
This opening clarinet solo is the embryonic version of a theme that returns to us fully developed in the fourth and final movement.
To my ears, this theme declares that Sibelius is going to be a composer that counts.
Sibelius had a tremendous ability to write and develop orchestral melodies.
This theme from the 1st Symphony threatens to sweep us away when we meet it after it's all grown up.
Sibelius' ability to write a catchy tune is made obvious by the hymn section from his patriotic symphonic poem, Finlandia. That tune has been set to Christian texts no fewer than six times, the most popular of which is Be Still, My Soul.
If you've not heard Sibelius' music, go YouTube him immediately. I had been listening to symphonic music for longer than I care to admit when I first stumbled upon him. I felt ashamed to have been ignorant of this Finnish titan.
So far as his 1st Symphony is concerned, there are segments that do sound too much like Tchaikovsky. But then again, I really like Tchaikovsky and I like this symphony. I do not care that it borrows heavily from the style of another composer.
Why there is sheet music software called Sibelius beats me.
Just for fun...