Category Archives: News

First performance of Luukas Hiltunen’s Sibelius-inspired symphony

Luukas Hiltunen in Järvenpää

Photo: © Luukas Hiltunen

The first performance of Luukas Hiltunen’s Sibelius-inspired symphony took place on 18 April 2022. It was played by Sinfoniaorkesteri Vivo (the National Youth Symphony Orchestra of Finland) under its chief conductor Erkki Lasonpalo at the Järvenpää Hall.

Luukas Hiltunen took almost eighteen months to complete his Symphony No. 1 for full orchestra, finishing it in June 2020. The score consists of 72 pages, and the work plays for approx. 30 minutes. There are three movements: an Andante espressivo first movement in A minor, a scherzo (Allegretto grazioso) with trio (Moderato assai e sempre espressivo), and an extensive finale (Andante sostenuto). It is scored for 2 flutes (both doubling piccolos), 2 oboes, cor anglais, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, timpani, percussion (snare drum, cymbals and bass drum), harp and strings.

Luukas Hiltunen has listened to the music of Sibelius ever since he was a small boy, and has become familiar with his style of writing music for orchestra. ‘I’m very proud of the finale, it’s definitely the most advanced and complex musical structure I have written so far’, writes Hiltunen, describing it as ‘a musical journey from darkness to light, ending up with a solemn hymn [an original composition, not an arrangement]… an uninterrupted 15-minute whole, almost like a tone poem inside a symphony, without any external source of inspiration. Therefore it comes very close to Sibelius’s En saga, I think; it creates a unique and every time a different imaginary musical journey, a metamorphosis full of themes that develop and continue imperceptibly, with logical transitions between recognizable states of mind (leitmotifs).’ The music is very approachable; Sibelian touches include the use of triplets, syncopated horn writing and the ways he uses the lower strings, and the work has a noticeably melancholic Finnish character, although it does not make use of direct quotations from folk music.

Luukas Hiltunen has previously made arrangements for symphony orchestra of Sibelius’s organ works Intrada and Surusoitto, and a string quartet version of the Scène d’amour from Scaramouche.

Instagram: luukas_hiltunen_musician
Music publisher (Symphony): Universal Edition,
Music publisher (Scène d’amour): Edition Wilhelm Hansen Copenhagen

Jean Sibelelius

New research into the 1865 birth registers in Hämeenlinna has revealed a major error concerning the spelling of the composer’s name.

Some years ago it was pointed out that the order of the composer’s forenames according to the birth records was ‘Johan Christian Julius’ rather than the previously accepted ‘Johan Julius Christian’. The corrected order has been adopted by scholars and authors ever since.

Now it has emerged that the composer’s family name, as presented in the records, was not Sibelius but rather Sibelelius (highlighted in the extract above). This announcement has major implications for all books, recordings and other publications focusing in the composer and his music, all of which will potentially need to be reprinted to reflect the new spelling.

The full page containing the birth record

According to experts from the Finnish Organization Of Linguistics, it is likely that the composer himself initially used the correct form of his name on a regular basis but gradually came to prefer the shorter version around the time he adopted the French form of his forename. ‘Jean är mitt musiknamn’ (‘Jean is my music name’, as he wrote to his uncle Pehr on 31 March 1886).

Nonetheless, the longer version has always been ‘hiding in plain sight’ and sometimes he would sign himself with the original form of the  surname, even in later life.

Sample signature from 1955

Early indications are that the authentic spelling will be used with immediate effect by music publishers and record companies.

The ‘new’ signature on the iconic blue cover of the JSW Complete Works edition

and on CD artwork

Work is also under way to update the Sibelelius One logo.

Further information about the uptake of this new spelling will be reported in due course.

Sibelius Symphonies and Tone Poems with David Nice

10 Thursdays, 2.30–4.30pm on Zoom, starting 28 April 2022

After four in-depth terms on Russian music, one on the Czechs and the most recent on the Hungarians, David Nice’s course covering national identity in music turns to Finland, where one name towers above all the others: that of Jean Sibelius. While he only started learning to speak Finnish aged 9 at one of the country’s first national schools – Swedish was his mother tongue – Sibelius’s musical consistency is absolute, from the early tone poems and the programme symphony Kullervo of the early 1890s through to his turning away from all major works in the 1920s.

We’ll be following the adventure from the bracing early masterpieces through to the supreme concentration of the Seventh Symphony and Tapiola, with excursions to the music of other Finnish composers both contemporary with Sibelius and of later generations. Hopes are high for the kind of special guests who’ve been a feature of earlier courses – among them conductors Vladimir Jurowski, Antonio Pappano and Paavo Järvi; pianists Pavel Kolesnikov and Samson Tsoy; violinists Alina Ibragimova and Josef Špaček; and harpist Jana Boušková.

A wide range of works will be illustrated with excerpts on CD, DVD and YouTube.

‘I cannot recommend these classes highly enough. The classes, all guided by the expert hand of David Nice, comprise discussion, listening to recordings and watching scenes on DVD as well as interviews with internationally renowned singers, conductors and directors who have a particular association with the works being studied.’ – Susan Bullock MBE, soprano and regular class visitor

Fee: £100 for the whole term of ten two-hour classes on Zoom

Email: ASAP to confirm a place


Sibelius Festival Golfo del Tigullio e Riviera 2022 – foretaste

A short series of 3 concerts and 3 lectures – mostly in April with one concert in June – will give a foretaste of the seventh Sibelius Festival Golfo del Tigullio e Riviera (which will take place in September 2022). The festival was held for the first time in 2015 and is dedicated to Sibelius and the music scene in the Nordic countries and northern Europe, with repertoire ranging from late Romanticism to contemporary works. Artistic director of the festival is Federico Ermirio.

Lectures and concerts will take place in Santa Margherita Ligure, Chiavari and Sestri Levante. For further information please click here for click here for event schedule and click here for information about the participants (in Italian).

from Italy:
Trio Gustav (violin, cello, piano)
Iris Faceto, viola da gamba / Dario Destefano, cello
from the USA:
Ambroise Aubrun, violin / Kate Hamilton, viola

Free admission. Info:

New Sibelius ballet by Jorma Elo

Image from the Finnish National Opera and Ballet’s website

Choreographer Jorma Elo’s ballet Sibelius will be performed by the Finnish National Opera and Ballet in March–May 2022, conducted by Olari Elts. The Finnish National Ballet is celebrating its centenary in 2022, and this production at the Opera House in Helsinki forms part of its centenary programme.

According to the Finnish National Opera and Ballet’s website, ‘Jorma Elo’s new ballet is about Jean Sibelius and his creativity, which inspires him to push forward. Nevertheless, his life wouldn’t be possible without Aino – her love, creativity and understanding. Though Jean is the main character, the story is both Aino’s and Jean’s. Their love is at the heart of the ballet, and the audience is shown each character’s point of view. Aino and Jean’s burning love and passion is a constant through the decades, in spite of the obstacles… Jorma Elo explored Sibelius’s work in depth to find the most suitable music for his ballet. Excerpts from several different pieces come together beautifully in a score that follows the composer’s life. Sibelius’s compositions for the stage, which are particularly fitting to the story, are complemented by pieces close to Elo’s heart, such as the Violin Concerto, Symphony No. 5 and Finlandia.’

The ballet traces key moments throughout Sibelius’s long life. A degree of artistic licence has, however, heen applied to some of the events portrayed.

Choreographer Jorma Elo was born in Helsinki in 1961 and danced with the Finnish National Ballet from 1978 to 1984. He made his début as a choreographer in 2000 with The View from Over Here and Blank Snow (Alberta Ballet). Since 2004 he has worked in the USA, becoming a resident in 2010. In 2005 he was appointed as resident choreographer of Boston Ballet. Other companies with which he has worked include the New York City Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, Royal Danish Ballet, Nederlands Dans Theater, Vienna State Opera Ballet and Finnish National Ballet.

Sets and costumes are by the American designer Robert Perdziola, inspired by the paintings of Aino Sibelius’s brother Eero Järnefelt and photos of early 20th century Helsinki. The role of Jean is danced by Tuukka Piitulainen, Michal Krčmář and Henry Grey; Aino is portrayed by Rebecca King, Abigail Sheppard and Violetta Keller.

A total of nine performances are scheduled between 11 March and 14 May.

The ballet’s duration is two and a half hours (including intermission) and ticket prices range from  €20 to €129.

Click here for more information or to buy tickets.

Jaakko Kuusisto 1974–2022

The violinist, conductor and composer Jaakko Kuusisto died at the age of 48.

Kuusisto was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2020 and underwent an operation to remove it, but his condition worsened in recent months. He passed away on 23 February in Oulu.

Jaakko Kuusisto, from a prominent Finnish musical family, gained fame in the late 1980s as a violinist alongside his brother Pekka. He studied the violin at the Sibelius Aca­demy and at Indiana Uni­ver­sity; his teachers included Géza Szilvay, Tuomas Haa­panen, Miriam Fried and Paul Biss. In 1989 he won the Kuopio Violin Competi­tion, and thereafter gained top prizes at several major competitions – including a special prize for the best performance of a new work at the Jean Sibelius Competition in 1990. In 1997 he was appointed leader of the Lahti Symphony Orchestra, a post he held with distinction until 2012. During this time he participated in many ground-breaking Sibelius recordings both with the orchestra and as a chamber musician; with the pianist Folke Gräsbeck he recorded all of Sibelius’s youth production for violin and piano as well as the piano trios, piano quartets and quintets. Kuusisto also made performing versions of several pieces by Sibelius, adding missing elements to complete works that had not survived intact. Overall he was among the most frequently recorded of Finnish instru­mentalists and recorded concertos by some of the most prominent Finnish con­temporary composers.

As a musician he was called ‘intellectual and exploratory’ (by his former teacher Miriam Fried) and his performances were rightly celebrated for their refinement, good taste and naturalness.

Conducting and composing (notably of operas, chamber and orchestral music) came to play an increasingly important part in his career. He studied composing at the Sibelius Academy with Eero Hämeenniemi and at the Indiana University with David Dzubay. He was principal guest conductor of the Oulu Symphony Orchestra (2005–09) and became principal conductor of the Kuopio Symphony Orchestra in 2018. He also conducted his own operas at the Savonlinna Opera Festival and Finnish National Opera. As a conductor he made the world première recordings of movements and extracts from the original versions of several Sibelius symphonies, plus also his own arrangement of Sibelius’s Masonic Ritual Music, with the Lahti Symphony Orchestra.

Jaakko Kuusisto was artistic director of the in ‘Our Festival’ chamber music festival by Lake Tuusula (with his brother Pekka) in the years 1999–2006 and of the Oulu Music Festival from 2013 until 2021. He was also a member of the Finnish Arts Council (2016–19), and in the spring of 2021 he was elected as a councillor in Oulu, representing the Green Party. 

Photos: Jaakko Kuusisto in at the Lahti Sibelius Festival in 2003 (top) and
during Sibelius recording sessions in Kuusankoski in 2005 (middle, lower)
(© Sibelius One)

New CD from Fenella Humphreys and Joseph Tong

A new recording of music for violin and piano by Sibelius bas been released by Resonus Classics, featuring Fenella Humphreys, violin, and Joseph Tong, piano.

Programme of the disc:
Four Pieces, Op. 78 · Andante cantabile, JS 33
Five Pieces, Op. 81 · Danses champêtres, Op. 106
Four Pieces, Op. 115 · Three Pieces, Op. 116

Resonus Classics RES 10294

This recording is supported by Sibelius One, in memory of George Steven.
We have a limited number of copies of this CD available for purchase by current members of Sibelius One at a heavily discounted price of £7.50 including p&p (UK only). We regret that the massive increase in administrative and customs formalities as a result of Brexit mean that we are currently unable to deliver to the EU or rest of the world. Supplies are strictly limited and orders will be processed on a first-come, first-served basis. Click here for Members’ Discount page.

Joseph Tong writes: ‘The idea [for this disc] occurred quite randomly and spontaneously when Fenella and I met at the Presteigne Festival back in 2015. We were staying with the same host family and the conversation I remember quite naturally gravitated towards Sibelius, no surprises there of course, and we decided to meet up every so often to set in motion a Sibelius project and enjoy exploring all the amazing repertoire… The sets of pieces for violin and piano are curiously neglected, yet absolutely wonderful as we discovered. It was a pleasure to record them in the warm acoustic of Cedars Hall at Wells Cathedral School… the recording dates in late-October 2020 fell just before the next period of Covid restrictions. Not having many live concerts around that time made the whole experience of Sibelius immersion even more special.’

Lahti Sibelius Festival 2022

Lahti Symphony Orchestra / Dalia Stasevska (Photo: © Taina Räty)

The Lahti Symphony Orchestra’s 23rd Sibelius Festival will be held at the Sibelius Hall in Lahti from 31 August to 4 September 2022, with Dalia Stasevska, chief conductor of the orchestra, as its artistic director. The festival will be opened by an international guest appearance of the highest calibre, when the Estonian Festival Orchestra, consisting of European musicians, will perform on Wednesday 31 August, conducted by the renowned Estonian conductor Paavo Järvi.

The Lahti Symphony Orchestra will give three concerts at the festival conducted by Dalia Stasevska. The theme of the orchestral concert on Thursday, 1 September 2022, is ‘Flora and Fauna’, and the concert will feature Pan and Echo, the concert suite from Pelléas et Mélisande, The Wood-Nymph (melodrama) and Snöfrid.

The programmes for the orchestral concerts on Friday 2 September and Saturday 3 September were originally chosen by Jean Sibelius himself. ‘In Sibelius’s time, it was typical that the première of the new work took place in a concert organized by the composer himself. This allowed composers to present their other works as well. Sibelius was especially careful to ensure that his premières took place at concerts where the repertoire consisted exclusively of his own compositions’, explains Stasevska, and continues: ‘The Friday and Saturday orchestral concerts at the Sibelius Festival are programmes chosen by Sibelius himself from 1911 and 1927. These included the Finnish premières of the Fourth and Seventh Symphonies and Tapiola. These reconstructed concerts allow us an interesting glimpse into the music of Sibelius as presented by the composer himself.

As an innovation, a family concert, ‘Melody Forest’, will also be included in the festival programme, on the afternoon of Saturday 3 September. The festival concludes with another new kind of collaboration, at Lahti Church of the Cross on Sunday morning, 4 September, with a Keski-Lahti parish church service, the musical content of which focuses on the music of Sibelius.

The festival will also feature a piano recital, and the concerts are complemented by other events such as pre-concert talks. Further details of the festival programme will be announced later and ticket sales will start in February (date to be announced) via the ticket agency Lippupiste.

Programme listing: click here.

Sibelius One Magazine January 2022

The January 2022 issue of Sibelius One’s magazine is in the final stages of production and will be sent out to subscribers during January.

To add the magazine to your membership or order back copies, please see our Magazine page (click here).

Articles in this issue:

  • My 90 World Première Performances – Folke Gräsbeck
  • A Beautiful Silence, this Silence of Järvenpää – Leon Chia
  • New Sibelian discoveries in recent years – David Revilla Velasco
  • Harty Sibelius – Kornel Kossuth