|Sibelius having a weird hair day|
The normal thing would be to just put up posts on each of the seven symphonies by Sibelius, but how dull is that? Listening through all the symphonies prior to starting these posts, I am struck by how remarkably differently he starts each symphony. For Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven a symphony essentially had to start in one of two ways: either with the first or main theme of the movement, in the tonic, or with a slow introduction that was harmonically ambiguous or unstable and amounted to a dominant upbeat. Exceptions to this, like Haydn's "Drumroll" Symphony that starts with a drumroll (of course), are so rare that they get special nicknames. But Sibelius is a genius at finding an entirely new way of beginning (and ending, but that's a different post) every symphony. Let's do a survey.
Here is the beginning of the Symphony No. 1. I didn't select the whole page because, apart from the first clarinet and the tympani, everyone has rests. Sure, start your First Symphony with a clarinet solo accompanied by tympani, I dare ya!
|Click to enlarge|
And here is the opening of the Symphony No. 2. This is all about meter and you aren't sure where the downbeat is for a while. The mood of this opening, cheerful and almost dance-like, is what really contrasts with the First Symphony. Here is what the score looks like:
And sounds like. Again, you only have to listen to the first minute or two to get the idea:
How about a funky, four-square lick in C major in the low strings? That's how the Symphony No. 3 begins:
And it sounds like this:
If you didn't know, would you even think this was the same composer?
A long while ago I wrote a post on the beginning to the Symphony No. 4 which has the most dramatic and eerie beginning of any of the Sibelius symphonies. It opens with a crashing, resonating segment from the whole tone scale for low strings. Go read the post for the details. And here is what that opening sounds like:
Next time, a look at the openings of the last three symphonies.