Jean Sibelius


The Early Years and Maturity and Silence

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his is an intimate account, using film and Sibelius’s music and words, of a great artist’s struggle with his medium, with the world and with himself. The films set out also to try and free Sibelius’s reputation from some of the unnecessary encrustations of history by looking at the composer’s own declared intentions, so poetically expressed, which are earning the increasing attention and respect of composers today.

You have lit a candle in the world of music that will never go out.
Ralph Vaughan Williams

At the peak of his career, Sibelius was hailed by almost every leading critic and composer in England as the greatest symphonist of the twentieth century, in the words of Ralph Vaughan Williams, "You have lit a candle in the world of music that will never go out." In 1935, a survey by the New York Philharmonic Society showed his music to be more popular with their concert-goers than that of any other composer, living or dead, a degree of recognition in his own lifetime unequalled in Western music.
By the mid-1960's however, critics in England, and to a lesser extent in the United States, had reacted against the effusions of their forebears and relegated Sibelius to a position of minor importance. Views are changing again, and the time is right for a re-assessment of Sibelius’s work.

For the Sibelius films alone Christopher Nupen's life on this earth must be judged a life worth living.
Terence Davies (prize-winning English screenwriter)

The films are made in the belief that if the music of Sibelius is approached with a gesture of commitment and measure of understanding, it offers rewards on the level of the greatest masters in Western music and the films are made in the hope of contributing something to that understanding.

  AWARDS: Winner of the Silver Medal in the Music Category at the 1984 New York International Film and Television Festival, Special Jury Award - Banff Television Festival 1985  

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The films follow an artistic journey that was not an easy one. Living through the great turning point in Western music, many of Sibelius' concerns were strikingly similar to those of Schoenberg and Stravinsky. Each followed a different path, however, and it is not surprising that their reputations should be caught up in the massive shifts of fashion that characterise the turmoil of twentieth century music.

Christopher Nupen offers an intimate look at what Sibelius himself felt that he was trying to achieve. To quote Nupen: "His music has lasted and I believe that it will continue to last, whatever fashion may do...his voice is inimitable, unmistakable and for me unforgettable. My first encounters with it opened up a whole new world that remains with me."

As with Nupen's films on Respighi, Mussorgsky and Tchaikovsky, the orchestra is the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Vladimir Ashkenazy. They are joined in this film by Elisabeth Söderström and Boris Belkin.

DVD Extra features

  • New personal introductions by Christopher Nupen
  • New improved restored image quality
  • Allegro Molto: an Allegro Films compilation