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Major Sibelius manuscript collection moves to the National Library of Finland



Title page of the Third Symphony

The National Library of Finland, home to the world’s largest treasury of Sibelius manuscripts, has acquired a further significant collection.

The new additions include assorted manuscripts for nine works. The material is over 1,230 pages long, and comes from the German publishing house Lienau, which published a number of major works by Sibelius in the first decade of the 20th century, including the Violin Concerto, Third Symphony, the symphonic poems Pohjola’s Daughter and Night Ride and Sunrise, and the Voces intimae string quartet. The material now acquired includes manuscripts of all these works, except Pohjola’s Daughter, the manuscript of which was sold at auction in 2016.

At the core of the collection are fair copies of major scores in Sibelius’s own hand. These include Voces intimae, the incidental music for Strindberg’s play Svanevit (Swanwhite) and the Eight Josephson Songs, Op. 57. The material reveals how much of a piano four-hands arrangement of the Third Symphony was by the Russian-born Swiss composer Paul Juon and how much was done by Sibelius himself. There is also the score that Richard Strauss used to conduct the première of the revised version of the Violin Concerto in Berlin in 1905, including markings made by Strauss in pencil.


Title page of the incidental music for ‘Swanwhite’

The manuscript material is crucial for research as well as being a valuable cultural and national heritage. At present, no permits are issued for the export of Sibelius manuscripts from Finland. At the National Library, the material is kept in ideal conditions for current and future generations of researchers and musicians.

Professor Timo Virtanen, editor-in-chief of the Jean Sibelius Works (JSW) critical edition based at the National Library, remarks: ‘Sibelius’s manuscripts attract researchers and musicians from all over the world to the National Library; they are an inexhaustible source of research information and inspiration. We researchers are grateful to all those who made it possible to save the manuscript collection for Finland.’ The acquisition was made possible in part through grants and donations, for example from the the Ella & Georg Ehrnrooth Foundation, the Louise and Göran Ehrnrooth Foundation and Elsa Fromond, as well as three other private sponsors.

Source (text and images): National Library of Finland
Information in Finnish and link to more images: click here

Appeal for 1,200 pages of Sibelius

We draw your attention to the following urgent appeal from Timo Virtanen, editor-in-chief of the works of Jean Sibelius, also reported on the Slipped Disc website:
‘Some time ago, a large and valuable collection of Sibelius manuscripts which had been in a publishing archive in Germany since the early 1900s, was offered again for sale. The collection includes over 1,200 pages of various manuscripts, including Sibelius’s own purely written notes for the string quartet Voces intimae, the Svanevit suite for orchestra, and the music for the plays Pelléas and Mélisande and Belshazzar’s Feast, arranged for piano. In addition, the collection contains important source material for the violin concerto, the third symphony and the symphonic poem Night Ride and Sunrise. Now the fate of the collection – the largest known in the Sibelius research circle still wanders without a permanent home in the world – seems to be completely unclear. As a national treasure, Sibelius’s manuscripts are invaluable.
‘Today, a disaster is again imminent: one of our national treasures is in danger of ending up in an unknown country and at an unknown address. I hope it is a common interest, but also our duty and responsibility to nurture our unique national property and cultural heritage.’
If you have information concerning the wherebouts of these important manuscripts, please e-mail us [click here] and we’ll pass the information on to Timo Virtanen.

Voces intimae for sale (updated)

The autograph manuscript of Sibelius’s String Quartet in D minor (‘Voces intimae’), Op. 56, signed twice (‘Jean Sibelius’), was offered for auction at the bi-annual Music and Continental Books and Manuscripts sale by Sotheby’s, London on 29 November 2016. The sale also offered the complete autograph manuscript of Gustav Mahler’s Second Symphony (‘Resurrection’).

This is the autograph manuscript of Sibelius’s most famous chamber work and features the original ending, which differs from the published version. The original ending can be heard on a recording by the Tempera Quartet on BIS-1466 (or BIS-1903/05).

The large number of new recordings of ‘Voces intimae’ (see e.g. our Discography & Recordings page) in recent years have confirmed its status as one of Sibelius’s middle-period masterpieces.

The quartet was completed in 1909 and published by Lienau the same year. Although this manuscript was used by Sibelius’s publisher to set up the first edition in 1909, it contains important differences from it. The final twenty-one bars differ markedly from the printed scores and were evidently completely rewritten on a later manuscript.

This is the sole surviving manuscript of the whole work.

Guide price: £ 200,000-300,000 € 222,000-333,000

Update: The manuscript of ‘Voces intimae’ remained unsold. The manuscript of Mahler’s Second Symphony was the star of the auction, selling for £4,546,250.

Click here for a list of the items sold and the prices fetched.

Click here for further information (pdf) about this and works by other composers that were be auctioned.