Sibelius : Sinfonia nr 2Köln, 1969 (Audio)
Director: John Barbirolli
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Jean Sibelius's Symphony No. 2 in D major, Opus 43 was started in winter 1900 in Rapallo, Italy, and finished in 1902 in Finland.
It was first performed by the Helsinki Philharmonic Society on 8 March 1902, with the composer conducting. After the first performance, Sibelius made some revisions, and the revised version was given its first performance by Armas Järnefelt on 10 November 1903 in Stockholm.
The symphony is in four movements, with the third movement and the finale played attacca:
In Finland, this popular work with its grandiose finale was connected by some with the struggle for Finland's independence, even being popularly dubbed the "Symphony of Independence", as it was written at a time of Russian sanctions on Finnish language and culture.
Sibelius's reaction to this has been widely debated; some claim that he had not intended any patriotic message and was purely identified as a nationalist composer, while others believe that he wrote the piece with an independent Finland in mind.
Tying in with Sibelius' philosophy on the art of the symphony (he wrote that he "admired [the symphony's] severity of style and the profound logic that created an inner connection between all the motifs..."), the work grows almost organically out of a rising three-note motif heard at the opening of the work, which, after appearing in many guises throughout the entire symphony (and indeed forming the basis for most of the material) forms the dramatic theme of the finale.
The first recording was made by Robert Kajanus with the London Symphony Orchestra for the HMV label in May 1930.