Conductor's Notes

Sibelius Symphony No. 7

Sibelius described his vision for his final Symphony to be about "joy of life and vitality with appassionato sections". For me, this music was the musical and emotional antidote to the struggle of his Symphony No. 4 and was performed immediately after our performance of the Fourth. The experience of this was truly impactful as it allowed those of us witnessing the performance to sink to the depths of deeply negative introspection in the Fourth and to experience the pull of life and emotional affirmation that came from the Seventh. Literally it was an experience of rising from the ashes into something that soared and revelled in beauty and positive expression. The exquisite slow buildup of the chorale-like section in his Seventh Symphony which climaxes into a trombone solo is one of the most beautiful moments of orchestral music.

With the Seventh Symphony, Sibelius created a one-movement symphonic work unlike any other. Thematically connecting everything so that there were no breaks between sections in the music he found ways to create an organic progression of musical material from beginning to end. He used a technique of changing the rhythm to be exactly twice as fast or twice as slow to transition from one section to another. Sibelius created this music around the tonal centre of C - sometimes C major, sometimes C minor. The final section of the work climaxes in a glorious eruption of C major, as if the sun has suddenly come out from behind the clouds. Sibelius lived for another 33 years after completing this last Symphony, but composed very little after this point. Aside from his Tapiola tone poem, this Symphony stands as one of his last works.