En Saga

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En saga
by Jean Sibelius
Sibelius portrait 1892 by Eero Jaernefelt.jpg
English A Fairy Tale
Catalogue Op. 9
Period Late-Romantic
Genre Orchestral
Form Tone poem
Composed 1892 (r. 1902)
Duration 18 minutes
Movements 1
Premiere
Date February 16, 1893
Location Helsinki, Finland
Conductor Jean Sibelius

En saga (English translation: A fairy tale or A saga) is a tone poem written by the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius in 1892. After hearing Sibelius' choral work Kullervo, the conductor Robert Kajanus encouraged Sibelius to compose a purely orchestral work, which turned out finally to be this work. The evolution of this work is somewhat ambiguous, except that in 1890–1891, Sibelius had commenced composition on an octet for strings, flute and clarinet. This work evolved into a septet by September 1892, and had acquired the title Ballet Scene No. 2 by November of that year. However, a letter to Adolf Paul dated 10 December 1892 stated that Sibelius had finished "the orchestral piece En saga".[1]

The composer himself conducted the first performance on 16 February 1893 in Helsinki. In the context of an invitation from Ferruccio Busoni in 1902 to conduct the work in Berlin, Sibelius revised the work, and conducted the first performance of the final version in Helsinki on 2 November 1902.[2]

The title is in Swedish, Sibelius's mother tongue. He did not specify any story in it, although he did comment that any general literary inspiration was more from the Icelandic Eddas rather than the Kalevala (the Finnish national epic).[3] In his later years, Sibelius recounted to his secretary Santeri Levas:

"En saga is the expression of a state of mind. I had undergone a number of painful experiences at the time and in no other work have I revealed myself so completely. It is for this reason that I find all literary explanations quite alien."[4]

The first commercial recording of the original version of En saga was with Osmo Vänskä and the Lahti Symphony Orchestra (BIS CD-800). Breitkopf & Härtel published Gregory Barrett's reconstruction of a possible original chamber version, En Saga Septet, in 2003. (MUSICA RARA MR 2283). The En Saga Septet was commercially recorded by the Turku Ensemble, Finland. This recording was released on the CD Turku Ensemble: Imaginary Landscapes by Pilfink Records[5] in 2009.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Kari Kilpeläinen, Liner notes to CD recording of En saga (original 1892 version), BIS CD-800 (1996).
  2. ^ Erik W. Tawaststjerna (trans. Robert Layton): Sibelius, Volume I: 1865–1905. University of California Press (1976), pp. 129-130.
  3. ^ Erik W. Tawaststjerna (trans. Robert Layton): Sibelius, Volume I: 1865–1905. University of California Press (1976), p. 130.
  4. ^ Erik W. Tawaststjerna (trans. Robert Layton): Sibelius, Volume I: 1865–1905. University of California Press (1976), p. 130.
  5. ^ Pilfink Records.

External links[edit]