Friday, June 25, 2021

Jean Sibelius – Symphonies No. 1 & 2

This montage from our Podcast Vault revisits a post from July 31, 2020. It can be found in our archives at


For a second Friday, our podcast features the music of Jean Sibelius and, again, under the baton of a pair of Finnish conductors.

Born in Heinola, Finland, Jukka-Pekka Saraste began his career as a violinist before training as a conductor with Jorma Panula at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki. An artist of exceptional versatility and breadth and renowned for his objective approach, he feels a special affinity with the sound and style of late Romantic music. He maintains a particularly strong connection to the works of Beethoven, Bruckner, Shostakovich, Stravinsky and Sibelius and is internationally celebrated for his interpretations of Mahler. We remember Saraste fondly here in Canada as the Music Director of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra from 1994 to 2001. The later years of his tenure were marked by strife over the orchestra's financial difficulties, several musicians' strikes, and his unsuccessful efforts to improve the acoustics at Roy Thomson Hall. Saraste stepped down from his Toronto post in 2001, and has since returned to Toronto for several guest appearances.

Okko Kamu was born iin Helsinki  to a family of musicians. His father played double bass in the Helsinki Philharmonic. He began violin studies at age two and entered the Sibelius Academy at age six. He formed his own string quartet, the Suhonen, in 1964 where he played first violin. At age 20, he was appointed first solo violinist at the Finnish National Opera, and held this post until 1968. He then began to conduct, initially with the Finnish National Opera orchestra. Primarily self-taught, he became principal guest conductor of the Royal Swedish Opera in 1969, the same year as he won the first Herbert von Karajan Conducting Competition in Berlin. From 1971 to 1977, Kamu was principal conductor of the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra. In April 2009, the Lahti Symphony Orchestra announced the appointment of Kamu as its next chief conductor, as of the autumn of 2011 where he remained through the end of July 2016, at which time he concluded his tenure in Lahti.

As our filler piece, I chose Kamu in a live performance of the Sibelius tone poem The Wood Nymph with the Lahti Symphony.

I think you will (still) love this music too.

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