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October 20, 1957 - Image 10

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
Michigan Daily, 1957-10-20
Note:
This is a tabloid page

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

SIBE IUS

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his Permanence Seems Assured

I Why Two Michigan Professors Weren't
Welcome Last Year at Waseda University

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By DAVID KESSEL
THE DEATH of Jean Sibelius
last month removed from the
scene one of the most powerful and
individualistic figures of music.
Certainly no musician has ever
developed a more individual style;
regardless of which of his com-
positions one hears, of whatever
form, the Sibelius idiom is always
apparent.
Sibelius, it must be remembered,
was born in 1865; thus he was a
contemporary of. Richard Strauss,
Gustav Mahler and Claude De-
bussy. Debussy founded a whole
school of so-called "French Im-
pressionism"-which remains, well
filled with pupils to this day--of
which Stravinsky represents
merely a rather br"- offshoot.
Strauss and Mahler adhered
more to the opulent orchestrations
of the romantic era, often far dis-
tended from their origins. But
Sibelius stood apart. The Wag-
nerian influence, notable in the
music of Strauss and Mahler, as-
saulted by Debussy, seemed not to
affect Sibelius. Indeed, it is diffi-
cult to point out his derivations,
although if one must name pre-
cursors, perhaps Grieg, Brahms,
and Tchaikovsky are as fitting as
any.
ET THERE appears no "Si-
belius School." His music, like
that of Bartok, is far too indivi-
dualistic to allow imitation. It is
as though his music simply arose
from the past, shaped by his per-
sonality, but free from any devices
vwhich might encourage imitation.
Quite often one hears ingenious
arrangers portray some xnocuous

and "Valse Triste," have attracted
considerable popularity. In fact
this very popularity has often ob-
scured Sibelius' more significant
compositions.
The Sibelius symphonies surely
represent his major contribution
to music, even though "Finlandia,"
"Valse 'riste" and the tone poem
"En Saga" established -his early
success.
Sibelius' symphonies are un-
matched since Brahms and Bee-
thoven, representing the twen-
tieth century's principal contribu-
tion to this form.
One can, in fact, trace the pro-
gress of Sibelius through his sym-
phonies. The first, written in 1899,
is not unlike much of Tchaikovsky
in many respects, but really shows
distinct individuality, s t r i k i n g
themes, and intriguing orchestra-
tion.
THE SECOND symphony, cur-
rently regaining much of its
early popularity, begins a system
of thematic development, which.
Sibelius has originated, in which
melodic, fragments are first intro-
duced; later developed into intact
themes. This practice, together
with a trend toward instrumental
and organizational reduction con-
tinued throughout the succeeding
symphonies, results in the third
symphony being in three move-
ments with a much smaller or-
chestra. This culminates ,in the
seventh symphony, written one
vast movement of complex them-
atic evolution.
Curiously enough, Sibelius pub-
lished nothing after the seventh
symphony (1924), the tone poem
"Tapiola" (1925) and a few as-
sorted compositions, although an
eighth symphony is supposed to
be revealed eventually.
Yet this voluntary supression of
late music is not nearly so dismay-
ing as the secrecy shrouding Si-
belius' early compositions. Practi-
cally everything written before the
powerful tone poem "En Saga" of
1892 remains unpublished. How
interesting it would be to observe
the musical development of Si-
belius before 1892.

DEMONSTRATING STUDENTS waited in vain for Professors Gordy
International Airport.
U-

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musid in the "style" of Stravinsky,
or Schoenberg, or Ravel, but never
of Sibelius.
The music of Sibelius is in-
herently complex, intellectual, in-
comprehensible. Or so say the
reporters of the public which turns
to more digestable morsels for
comfort. This is not entirely true,
for many of the tone poems and
other works such as "Finlandia,"
"Swan of Tuonela," "Night Ride
and Sunrise," the "Karelia Suite,"

PLACARDS RAISED on high in front of the Memorial Auditorium
at Waseda University.

,.. ,

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CONSIDER EARLY Beethoven,
comprising symphonies one
and two, the first piano concerto,
some early trios, string quartets,
the first nine piano sonatas, and
the like. This music is far less
t interesting than what was to fol-
row, but hardly trivial. So must
I pre-1892 Sibelius be filled with
hints of the striking and individual
style which was to come. Perhaps
eventual publication of this music
will fill the unfortunate gap.
But even if Sibelius' early com-
positions remain unknown, and
his last works are never perform-
ed, his significance in the musical
picture seems secure enough.
No longer considered merely an
arranger of Finnish folk tunes,
Sibelijs now begins to appear as
a composer of the first rank, whose
symphonies are- placed alongside
the works of Brahms and Beetho-
ven.
While speculation about such
matters is never infallible, it seems
safe to predict that the music of
Sibelius will achieve a permanence
-V beyond that of any other recent
composer other than,, perhaps,
Bartok. His death may provide a
stimulus to accelerate assimilation
of his wqrk into the contemporary
musical scene.
- The Kessel byline has become
increasingly familiar to Daily
readers over the past years, in
such varied contexts as hilarious .

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