Over the past several weeks, we have looked at various composers and their use of nationalism. Many of these composers found that using folk music from their homeland helped to forge a connection between their music and national pride. Finnish composer Jean Sibelius went about composing his famous Finlandia in a different way. Finding inspiration in the nature surrounding him as well as in the Finnish epic Kalevala, Sibelius created his own melodies and wound up accidently composing Finland’s folk anthem when he completed Finlandia.
During the 19th-century, Finland lacked a sense of national identity as it was a part of the Russian Empire and culturally saturated with influences from Sweden. Finlandia was composed during a period of political unrest in Finland as the Russians sought to draft Finns into their own military. Sibelius’ iconic work was first performed under the heading Finland Awakes at a national event in Helsinki.
You may have heard this piece performed with lyrics at some point. Did you know that Sibelius did not actually write lyrics to his work and was angered by the fact that others did so? Here’s a listening clip of Finlandia. Can you see why the Finnish people felt so much national pride when listening to this work?