Other orchestral works

Andante festivo

Andante festivo for strings with timpani ad lib. Arrangement of a string quartet with the same name (1922). Completed 1938; the first performance was a direct broadcast on 1st January 1939 (The Radio Orchestra under Jean Sibelius). Also under opus 117.

Just before Christmas 1922 Walter Parviainen commissioned a festive cantata from Sibelius for the 25-year celebration of the Säynätsalo sawmills. On going through his sketches, Sibelius quickly decided on a small work of only a few pages, to be played by a string quartet. The work may have been based on very early sketches, perhaps even on the plan for the oratorio Marjatta from the beginning of the century.

In 1929 the composer's niece Riitta Sibelius got married, and Andante festivo was performed at the wedding by two combined string quartets. It is possible that the composer also made changes to the work for this performance.

During the 1930s Sibelius spent a lot of time listening to the radio. The imperfections of the loudspeakers of the time annoyed him, leading him to think that one should compose differently for the radio than for live concerts. He decided to try this out in practice when his friend Olin Downes, the critic of the New York Times, asked him to conduct a piece of music as Finland's greeting to the world in a radio broadcast to celebrate the New York World Exhibition. The 73-year-old Sibelius agreed to conduct after a break of over a decade.

In 1939 Sibelius prepared a version of the Andante festivo for string orchestra and timpani with the broadcast in mind. The recording of the broadcast is the only surviving document of Sibelius as a conductor. His tempo is solemn and quite slow. The orchestral string tone is singing, though on the coarse side – the piece was recorded after only one general rehearsal.

Sibelius keeps up the basic tempo with high professionalism, creating unforced rubatos. Using his privilege as the composer of the work, he now and then deviates considerably from the tempi in the score.

The composer's son-in-law Arvi Paloheimo escorting Jean Sibelius from his last performance as a conductor in 1939. Sibelius had conducted Andante festivo for a radio broadcast.