He is the most well-known Finnish composer, was able to capture Finnish nature, history and myths in his compositions, and his music played a big role during the independence process of Finland.
Johan Christian Julius Sibelius was born in Hämeenlinna. His parents used to call him “Janne”, but he started using the artist name Jean Sibelius after his first success in composing.
At age three, Jean lost his father and was raised among women. He started playing piano at age seven and violin at sixteen. Talking about the piano, Sibelius said that it was an instrument that does not sing.
Sibelius started studying law in 1885, but soon got bored with it. Music was all he had in mind.
In 1892 Sibelius married Aino Järnefelt, whom he met through a friend. They moved out of Helsinki to their own house in Tuusulanjärvi during the year 1904. They were extremely happy that year and Jean said that Helsinki had taken away all the music inside of him. He needed peace and nature. Those years were Sibelius’ most successful years.
Sibelius met many great composers and one of them, Gustav Mahler, came for a short visit to Helsinki. Sibelius and Mahler had a discussion about symphonies. “I respect the deep logic of symphonies, which demand a clear connection between the motives”, Sibelius argued. Mahler answered this quite simply: ”A symphony itself is a whole world. There must be everything in it”. They could never agree about the nature of symphonies; their views on aesthetics in symphonies were much too different.
Sibelius was prone to bouts of depression. During those periods he composed his most complex works, such as the string quartet “Voces intimae” and ”Luonnotar”.
After a long break Sibelius started composing again, but his self-criticism grew so high that he burned his 8th Symphony in the fire place. It was a great relief for him, as he could not stand it.
Sibelius died at age ninety-one. A year before that he got a nice present: a box of his favorite Cuban cigars from Winston Churchill on his ninetieth birthday.
This Funeral music was composed by Sibelius for his dear friend’s, painter Akseli Gallen-Kallela’s, funeral. This organ music gives us a hint of something that we could have heard from his 8th Symphony…