The Swan of Tuonela
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The Swan of Tuonela (Tuonelan joutsen) is an 1895 tone poem by the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius. It is the second part of Op. 22 Lemminkäinen (Four legends), tales from the Kalevala epic of Finnish mythology.
The tone poem is scored for a small orchestra of cor anglais solo, oboe, bass clarinet, two bassoons, four horns, three trombones, timpani, bass drum, harp, and divisi strings. The cor anglais is the voice of the swan and its solo is perhaps the best known cor anglais solo in the orchestral literature. The music paints a gossamer, transcendental image of a mystical swan swimming around Tuonela, the island of the dead. Lemminkäinen, the hero of the epic, has been tasked with killing the sacred swan; but on the way, he is shot with a poisoned arrow and dies. In the next part of the epic he is restored to life.
The Swan of Tuonela was originally composed in 1893 as the prelude to a projected opera called The Building of the Boat. Sibelius revised it two years later as the second of the four sections of the Lemminkäinen Suite (Lemminkäis-sarja), also known as the Four Legends from the Kalevala, Op. 22, which was premiered in 1896. Sibelius revised the tone poem twice, once in 1897 and again in 1900. (Sibelius has left posterity no personal account of his writing of this piece.) It was first printed by the publishing firm of K.F. Wasenius in Helsingfors (Helsinki), Finland, in April of 1901. Breitkopf & Hartel also published it in Leipzig in 1901. The original manuscript of this work no longer exists. When it actually disappeared is not known.
Disney also planned to use the piece in a segment of Fantasia. It was planned out in storyboards but was never animated.
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