Sibelius Lemminkainens Return Program Notes
Swedes or Russians governed the Finns for centuries, and Sibelius’s choices - a distinct musical style, Finnish language and folk-legends - parallel the nationalism of Smetana, Dvořák, Grieg and others, and contributed to Finland’s independence coalescence into a nation that declared independence in 1917. Finnish oral tradition of epic poetry concerned heroic figures like Lemminkainen, and was collected and published by Elias Lönnrot (a district health officer, but more importantly an amateur anthropologist) in the mid-1800s, as the Kalevala. The tone poem begins in a brooding, driving C minor - Sibelius writes con fuoco, or Dzwith fire.dz In orchestral writing, C minor is a fairly dark key, and Lemminkainen is coming from a dark place. Defeated in battle, he was cut into pieces Dztill the sharpened axe strikes flint-sparks from the rocks.dz Luckily for Lemminkainen, his mother trawls him from the lake where he was thrown, and using magical skills, reassembles and returns him to life. Presumably, he’s taking some motherly advice to go home: On horseback (the energetic writing throughout the orchestra), with the wind whistling past the hero - the brass writing could only be heard as heroic - the music moves through several harmonic centers, ending in the triumphant key of E-flat major, the same as Beethoven’s Eroica (heroic) symphony and the relative major of the opening C-minor.