Tapiola (Sibelius)

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Tapiola (literally, "Realm of Tapio"), Op. 112, is a tone poem by the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius, written in 1926. It was the product of a commission from Walter Damrosch for the New York Philharmonic Society. Tapiola portrays Tapio, the animating forest spirit mentioned throughout the Kalevala, lurking behind the stark Finnish pine-forests that enveloped Sibelius's isolated home Ainola outside Järvenpää.

It was premiered by Walter Damrosch and the New York Symphonic Society on 26 December 1926.[1]

When asked by the publisher to clarify the work's program, Sibelius responded by supplying a quatrain:

Widespread they stand, the Northland's dusky forests,
Ancient, mysterious, brooding savage dreams;
Within them dwells the Forest's mighty God,
And wood-sprites in the gloom weave magic secrets.

Tapiola was Sibelius's last major work, though he lived for another thirty years. He began working on an Eighth Symphony, but he is said to have burned the sketches after becoming unhappy with the work.

A typical performance of Tapiola lasts between fifteen and twenty minutes. It is scored for three flutes (third doubling piccolo), two oboes, English Horn, two clarinets, bass clarinet, two bassoons, contrabassoon, four horns, three trumpets, three trombones, timpani, and strings. The original publisher was Breitkopf & Härtel, who published most of Sibelius's works.

Robert Kajanus conducted the London Symphony Orchestra for HMV on 29 June 1932 at Abbey Road Studio 1 in the first recording of Tapiola.[2] In 1953 Herbert von Karajan conducted the Philharmonia Orchestra in the first of his four recordings of the work. (Sibelius regarded Karajan as "the only one who truly understands my work.")[3] Thomas Beecham and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra recorded the music in 1955; it was one of the first stereophonic recordings made by EMI Classics. Both before and since then, numerous conductors and orchestras have recorded the work.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "List of Sibelius' Works of the 1920s". Retrieved 18 April 2009. 
  2. ^ Search from CHARM Discography, Centre for the History and Analysis of Recorded Music, <http://www.charm.kcl.ac.uk/about/about_structure>, accessed 1 April 2013.
  3. ^ BBC Radio 3's Composer of the Week program – "Sibelius – The Rest is Silence?" (17 January 2011)

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