‘There was a maiden,
daughter of heaven,
the beautiful Luonnotar …’
… so begins – according to the Kalevala, the Finnish national epic – the making of earth, moon and stars.
Sibelius’ setting of this creation myth for soprano and orchestra is, by common consent, one of his finest compositions, capturing exactly the primitive, visceral darkness of the text (and simultaneously providing sopranos with one of the most taxing works in their entire repertoire).
Franz Berwald (1796–1868) was, like Sibelius, a composer of great originality, but, unlike Sibelius, his gifts weren’t acknowledged in his native country (Sweden) until the very end of his life. He wrote four symphonies of which the third, in C, called the Singulière, is the best known.
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