Jean Sibelius was a fascinating man. He was born the year the American Civil War ended and he died in the year of Sputnik. He was a prolific composer—in addition to seven symphonies, many other orchestral works, choral music, music for the stage, and chamber music, he wrote more than a hundred songs—but over the last thirty years of his life he wrote virtually nothing. He was the greatest of Finnish composers, but he was a Swedish Finn: his first language was Swedish, and in fact he didn’t even learn to speak Finnish well until he was a young man. Sibelius was influenced by many of the 19th-century composers who preceded him, but his style was always completely personal and impossible to pigeonhole. His Second Symphony, completed in 1902, was one of the last great Romantic symphonies, but Sibelius’s changes in style after that pointed unmistakably toward many of the dramatic innovations of 20th-century music.
A Minute with Miles is a production of South Carolina Public Radio, made possible by the J.M. Smith Corporation.