Complete symphonic performances are always a special event for the Berliner Philharmoniker. That includes this Sibelius cycle, which culminates in Simon Rattle conducting three symphonies in a row. Sibelius’s Symphonies Nos. 5, 6 and 7 fuse the qualities of the preceding works: the effusive Nordic tone of the first two symphonies, and the experimental form language and harmonies of Symphonies Nos. 3 and 4.
Symphony No. 5 in E flat major
Symphony No. 6 in D minor
Symphony No. 7 in C major
Introduction: 6:00 pm
In his Fifth Symphony, which ends with a grandiose song of nature, Sibelius again applied himself to the “big tone” in the traditional heroic key: E flat major. The work ends with a highly effective finale, in essence based on a figure in the winds that the composer himself designated a “swan hymn”: “Today at ten to eleven I saw 16 swans. One of my greatest experiences! […] The Fifth Symphony’s Finale-theme: Legato in the trumpets!!”
Sibelius’s Sixth, in contrast, which largely dispenses with the otherwise typical rhapsodic discontinuities and contradictions and also has markedly concertante characteristics, lives from a never-ending flow of the melodic figures, set out in front of listeners in filigree, polyphonic curved lines. The music of a romantic impetus is enhanced in the Finale “in a dark orchestral roar in which the main theme drowns” (Sibelius), before a melancholy string movement leads to the conclusion.
How much Sibelius had departed in his symphonic works from the traditional canon of forms can last be heard in his one-movement Seventh Symphony, premiered as Fantasia sinfonica, which Simon Rattle will perform directly following the Sixth: starting from an adagio tone in the strings reminiscent of Mahler, the music progresses through many stages to a fateful climax, before a Largamente conclusion again takes up the plaintive character of the beginning. Sir Simon Rattle’s philharmonic Sibelius cycle culminates with the performance of Symphonies Nos. 5, 6 and 7.