Lemminkäinen Suite

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Lemminkäinen Suite
by Jean Sibelius
Sibelius portrait 1892 by Eero Jaernefelt.jpg
Other name Four Legends
Catalogue Op. 22
Period Late-Romantic
Genre Orchestral
Form Tone poem
Composed 1895 (r. 1897, 1939)
Duration 50 minutes
Movements 4
Premiere
Date April 13, 1896
Location Helsinki, Finland
Conductor Jean Sibelius

The Lemminkäinen Suite (also called the Four Legends, or Four Legends from the Kalevala) is a work written by the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius in the early 1890s which forms his opus 22. Originally conceived as a mythological opera, Veneen luominen (The Building of the Boat), on a scale matching those by Richard Wagner, Sibelius later changed his musical goals and the work became an orchestral piece in four movements. The suite is based on the character Lemminkäinen from the Finnish national epic, the Kalevala. The piece can also be considered a collection of symphonic poems. The second/third section, The Swan of Tuonela, is often heard separately (the work's inner movements are often reversed as their order is a subject of disagreement among scholars).

  • Lemminkäinen and the Maidens of the Island: this is based on Runo 29 ("Conquests"[1]) of the Kalevala, where Lemminkäinen travels to an island and seduces many of the women there, before fleeing the rage of the men on the island.
  • The Swan of Tuonela: this is the most popular of the four tone poems and often is featured alone from the suite in orchestral programs. It has a prominent cor anglais solo. The music paints a gossamer, transcendental image of a mystical swan swimming around Tuonela, the island of the dead. Lemminkäinen has been tasked with killing the sacred swan, but on the way he is shot with a poisoned arrow, and dies himself.
  • Lemminkäinen in Tuonela: this is based on Runos 14 ("Elk, horse, swan"[2]) and 15 ("Resurrection"[3]). Lemminkäinen is in Tuonela, the land of the dead, to shoot the Swan of Tuonela to be able to claim the daughter of Louhi, mistress of the Northland, in marriage. However, the blind man of the Northland kills Lemminkäinen, whose body is then tossed in the river and then dismembered. Lemminkäinen's mother learns of his death, travels to Tuonela, recovers his body parts, reassembles him and restores him to life.
  • Lemminkäinen's Return: the storyline in the score roughly parallels the end of Runo 30 ("Jack Frost"[4]), where after his adventures in battle, Lemminkäinen journeys home.

The above order of the movements matches their numbering within opus 22. However, Sibelius revised the order in 1947, transposing the middle two movements, which is the order in which most concert performances are played.

Tristan Murail's Gondwana incorporates a substantial passage directly modelled upon Lemminkäinen in Tuonela.[5]

Recordings[edit]

The original versions of Lemminkäinen and the Maidens of the Island and Lemminkäinen's Return have been recorded by Osmo Vänskä and the Lahti Symphony Orchestra (BIS CD-1015)

References[edit]

  1. ^ Elias Lönnrot, The Kalevala, translated by Keith Bosley. Oxford University Press, Oxford World Classics edition (1989), pp. 401-417. ISBN 978-0-19-281700-6.
  2. ^ Lönnrot, (1989) pp. 155-167. Bosley, trans.
  3. ^ Lönnrot (1989), pp.168-186.
  4. ^ Lönnrot (1989), p. 431.
  5. ^ Grimley, Daniel M., ed. (2004). The Cambridge Companion to Sibelius, p.200. ISBN 978-0-521-89460-9.