Jean Sibelius in his study in 1915 when he was writing his fifth symphony.
The output of the Finnish national composer Jean Sibelius (1865-1957) comprises one of the most fascinating treasure houses of classical music. It includes world favourites such as Valse triste and Finlandia, as well as the most recorded violin concerto of the 20th century. It includes a symphonic cycle that has become one of the most esteemed and popular cycles since Beethoven. It includes small and easily accessible pieces – but also unique masterpieces of great depth, such as Luonnotar and Tapiola.
Sibelius wrote most of his works during the five decades from the beginning of the 1880s to the end of the 1920s. His stylistic development proceeds from his first exercises in the style of the Viennese classical school and early romanticism. It moves via national romanticism to a sort of neoclassicism and to an expressionist-impressionist intermediate stage. Finally it arrives at a renewal and crystallisation of symphonic thought, operating in ways whose significance is only now beginning to be understood in the light of contemporary scholarship.