Arachnophonia : Jean Sibelius “Symphony No. 5, op. 82 in Eb major”

Editor’s note: Arachnophonia is a regular feature on our blog where members of the UR community can share their thoughts about items in the Parsons Music Library‘s collection. All links included in these posts will take you to either the library catalog record for the item in question or to additional relevant information from around the web.

Today’s installment of Arachnophonia is by Music Library student worker Janis (class of 2021) and features Finnish composer Jean Sibelius’ 5th Symphony, which was originally composed in 1915. Thanks, Janis!

Jean Sibelius

Symphony No. 5 in Eb Major

Sibelius Symphony No. 5

“It is as if God Almighty had thrown down pieces of a mosaic for heaven’s floor and asked me to find out what was the original pattern.” – Jean Sibelius in a 1915 personal diary entry during the composition of his 5th Symphony

Several weeks ago I visited New York for the weekend, and I got to do something I had been dreaming of since I was a kid– seeing the New York Philharmonic live. (Special shout out to student rush tickets for making this possible). I was especially excited because the Philharmonic would be paying tribute to one of my favorite composers, Jean Sibelius. My excitement only grew as I realized they would be playing Sibelius’ Symphony No. 5 in E-Flat Major, one of his most iconic and one of my personal favorite works by Sibelius.

Jean Sibelius 1913

Composer Jean Sibelius in 1913 *

The symphony was inspired by a flight of swans witnessed by Sibelius in his later years; as he aged, his compositions became increasingly inspired by the connection between the earth and music.

Swans in flight

The ethereal opening of Symphony No. 5 reflects the quiet spirituality Sibelius found in nature, describing it as “…God opens His door for a moment and His orchestra plays the Fifth Symphony.” The symphony itself is divided into three movements, with a slow opening that evokes the sunrise and culminating in 6 separated chords; the finale itself was intended to transform the call of swans at sunrise into music. It is remarkably triumphant, dramatic, and transcendent. As Jeff Counts says in a review of Symphony No. 5, “Just like the absolutely transcendent sounds of the “swan hymn” in the finale, Sibelius was merely acknowledging his fortunate ability to gather the mysterious world around him into music. As an experience, Sibelius 5 is neither modern nor quaint, only lasting.”

* fi:Daniel Nyblin (1856–1923) – What We Hear in Music, Anne S. Faulkner, Victor Talking Machine Co., 1913.
Composer Jean Sibelius

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William Schuman – Symphonies and Selected Orchestral Works
Roger Sessions – Symphonies 6, 7 & 9
Ralph Vaughan Williams – Complete Symphonies
Isang Yun – Complete Symphonies; My Land, My People; Exemplum

Isang Yun - Complete Symphonies

Concertos and Chamber Music

Alberto Ginastera – The Three Piano Concertos (Nissman Plays Ginastera)
Bohuslav Martinu – Chamber Music with Flute
Jean-Pierre Rampal – Les triomphes de Jean-Pierre Rampal
Ransom Wilson – Flute Music By French Composers

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Jazz

Tri-Ocity – The Art of the Jazz Organ Trio

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Frederic Chopin – Paul Badura-Skoda plays the Chopin Piano Concertos
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Howard Hanson – Symphonies Nos. 3 & 6 and Fantasy Variations on a Theme of Youth

Jascha Heifetz – Beethoven & Brahms Concertos
Sergiu Luca & Malcom Bilson – Mozart Sonatas for Fortepiano and Violin: Late Viennese Sonatas

Gwendolyn Mok – The Composer’s Piano: Brhams Late Piano Works Op. 116-119
Jean-Philippe Rameau – Piece de Clavecin en Concert
Ralph Vaughan Williams – Concerto in C for Two Pianos; Job: A Masque For Dancing
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Johan Willem Friso Military Band – Alliance of the Free
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Frank Wildhorn – Jekyll & Hyde : The Musical
Various Artists – Repo Man: Music from the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
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Boy George – Taboo: Original London Cast
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Vincent D’Indy – Jour d’ete a la montagne, Op. 61 & Symphonie sur un chant montagnard “Chevenole”, Op. 25
King’s Consort – The Coronation of King George II
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Christopher Rouse – Odna Zhizn / Symphonies Nos. 3 & 4 / Prospero’s Rooms
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Soovin Kim; Jeremy Denk; Jupiter String Quartet – Concert in D Major; Chausson / Sonata No. 1 in A Major; Faure
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Sphinx Virtuosi – Live in Concert
Richard Strauss – Violin Concerto / Sonata in Eb
Charles Wuorinen – Ashberyana / Fenton Songs
Ellen Taaffe Zwilich – Violin Concerto / Rituals

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Popular Music

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Ariel Ramirez – Missa Criolla / Navidad Nuestra
Paul Schoenfield – Concerto for Violin & Orchestra / Four Motets / The Merchant and the Pauper (excerpts)
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World / Folk Music

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