Sometimes magnificence deserves a better name

In September 2009, in a fit of inspiration, I decided to make a video – make that music video – of one of my favourite unknown pieces of Sibelius, which up till then has never had any presence on Youtube.

The result was this:

Here’s my description on youtube:

The breathtakingly majestic 2nd tableau, “The Founding of Viipuri Castle” from the scenic music for Karelia, composed by Jean Sibelius in 1893. This movement was completed and reconstructed by Kalevi Aho in 1997 and recorded by BIS (BIS-CD-915).

I reviewed the CD here:

“Tableau 2 ‘The founding of Viipuri Castle (1293)’ is probably the most precious gem of this disc. Here, Sibelius demonstrates his gift for unfolding musical splendour with the breathtakingly majestic hymn that dominates the piece. Played on the lower strings, it represents monks praying at the founding ceremony. The music simply swells into grander and ever grander form. This is one of the movements whose missing lower string parts Aho has restored. The result is, by my reckoning, a faithful restoration in homage to the spirit of the composer, and is very convincing. Just listen to the achingly rich singing of the Lahti strings, and the massive paean of glorious brass at the end! ”

I’ve made this video in a fit of inspiration, because 1) despite its magnificence, it is a rarely known piece of music, 2) for Sibelius’ 52nd death anniversary today, and 3) it doesn’t seem to be available on youtube or any video site on the net. Please forgive the very amateurish production!

I sourced for photos of Finland for this clip, and the majority in it are by Rob Orthen. Please visit his photostream at for more of his beautiful photos. Unfortunately Mr Orthen has not replied to my formal request to use his photos, so I post this with apologies. No infringement is intended, nor any commercial intent – if anyone should object to the use of the images (and music), please let me know and I will take it down. My only goal is to champion my favourite composer.

This work, just under 4 minutes, is one of the most majestic things to come out of Sibelius’ hand. It has the solemnity of the equally magnificent Andante Festivo, and the heartbursting E-flat nobility of the Fifth Symphony. It’s just the description that might be a bit wanting. I certainly find it uninspiring to call it “The Founding of Viipuri Castle” which seems to suggest something rather more like a parade march.

What does the music make you think of?

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Leon is Singapore's resident champion of Jean Sibelius.

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