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A Composer’s Life and the Awakening of Finland


A Composer’s Life and the Awakening of Finland

One of the twentieth century’s greatest composers, Jean Sibelius (1865–1957) virtually stopped writing music during the last thirty years of his life. Recasting his mysterious musical silence and his undeniably influential life against the backdrop of Finland’s national awakening, Sibelius will be the definitive biography of this creative legend for many years to come.

Glenda Dawn Goss begins her sweeping narrative in the Finland of Sibelius’s youth, which remained under Russian control for the first five decades of his life. Focusing on previously unexamined events, Goss explores the composer’s formative experiences as a Russian subject and a member of the Swedish-speaking Finnish minority. She goes on to trace Sibelius’s relationships with his creative contemporaries, with whom he worked to usher in a golden age of music and art that would endow Finns with a sense of pride in their heritage and encourage their hopes for the possibilities of nationhood. Skillfully evoking this artistic climate—in which Sibelius emerged as a leader—Goss creates a dazzling portrait of the painting, sculpture, literature, and music it inspired. To solve the deepest riddles of Sibelius’s life, work, and enigmatic silence, Goss contends, we must understand the awakening in which he played so great a role.

Situating this national creative tide in the context of Nordic and European cultural currents, Sibelius dramatically deepens our knowledge of a misunderstood musical giant and an important chapter in the intellectual history of Europe.

Read an excerpt.

549 pages | 12 color plates, 36 halftones, 47 musical examples | 7 x 10 | © 2009

Biography and Letters

History: European History

Music: General Music


“A fascinating and exhaustive study in all things Finnish, not just its most cherished composer. I am finding the book particularly helpful in unravelling the mysteries of Sibelius interpretation—sometimes it takes the unbiased honesty of an outsider (Ms. Goss is from the American state of Georgia) to quantify and put things into proper perspective for all of us to appreciate.”

Andrew Litton | Arts Desk

“Goss’s Sibelius is the capstone of her years of careful research. It is extremely informative and engaging to read and should be studied by anyone interested in Sibelius, Finnish history, or the arts in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It is the best work that explains the context of Sibelius’s life and career.”

Carl Rahkone | Notes

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Preface: Methods and Miracles, Debts and Confessions           
Practical Questions: Names and References     
Towns and Place-Names         
A Window to the World
The Autonomous Grand Duchy of the Russian Empire
1 Finland’s Nature: Vårt Land?Our Land      
2 Pillars of Finnish Identity       
3 Nineteenth-Century Finland: Scènes historiques       
4 Imperial Helsinki       
5 Crosswinds  
6 From Russian Empire to Musical Empire       
Herää Suomi! / Awake, Finland!
7 Finland from Afar     
8 Young Finland and the Carelian Call to Arms
9 Science, Art, and Symbolism
10 Of Sagas and Springtime     
11 Aphrodite and the National Project 
12 National Aspirations and Symbolist Angst   
13 The Politics of the Theatrical           
14 From Russia but Not with Love      
15 The Finnish Resistance        
16 A New Millennium: Helsinki, Paris, the World!        
17 Italian Classicism and Finnish Nationalism    
18 Country Living and the Finnish National Movement 
1905: The Crucial Hour           
Taide Kuuluu Kaikille / Art Belongs to All
19 Connections East and West
20 Proletarians versus Bourgeoisie       
21 Turning Points         
22 Onward, Ye Powerful People!        
23 The Militaristic State           
24 Might Makes Right: The 1930s       
25 The Close   


Choice Magazine: CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title Awards

Amer Soc Composers/Authors/Publishers: Deems Taylor Award

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