The Clinton Symphony Orchestra will present their “Youthful Visions” winter concert on Saturday, February 9, 7:30 pm, Morrison IL High School Auditorium. Please enjoy the following program notes about Jean Sibelius and his work Symphony No. 3 in C Major, Op. 52 .


Critic Karl Flodin wrote in 1907 after hearing the Symphony No 3 in C major, Op 52 of Jean Sibelius (1865-1957):

The symphony meets all the requirements of a symphonic work of art in the modern sense, but at the same time it is internally new and revolutionary – thoroughly Sibelian.

In early spring 1906, Sibelius informed his friend Axel Carpelan that his Third Symphony in C major was near completion. It was Carpelan who had suggested to Sibelius some years prior that he and his family vacation in Italy as inspiration for his monumental Second Symphony; consequently, Sibelius kept in close contact with Carpelan about his musical affairs. He proposed to conduct the first performance at the Philharmonic Society in London in the next spring. However, Sibelius failed to meet his proposed deadline, and, after some concentrated effort he penned the finale notes in time for its premiere at the Great Hall of Helsinki University with himself conducting. The London concert had to be postponed, however, and he eventually put the finishing touches to the work in time to conduct it at the Great Hall of Helsinki University on September 25, 1907. Interestingly, the orchestral parts for the finale did not arrive until the last rehearsal.

The material for the Symphony No 3 had been with Sibelius for some time. Parts of the score show the influences carried over from the First and Second Symphonies, particularly in the finale. He also drew motifs from works he never completed, such as a piano suite, a tone poem, and an oratorio.

The Symphony No 3 may well be Sibelius’s farewell to the opulent romanticism of his earlier works. While the symphony echoes elements of the magisterial eloquence and galactic monumentalism of the first two symphonies, it is much more cheerful and free-wheeling- and shorter – in its presentation. He seems to purposefully avoid the “excesses” of the symphonists of the time – Richard Strauss, Alexander Scriabin, and Gustav Mahler. One might even call this work Sibelius’s “Classical” symphony in that he focuses on the development of his material in terms of “absolute music” in the mode of Bach, Mozart, and Haydn. There is nothing “programmatic” in this symphony. To Sibelius, in fact, Mozart was the most genuine of composers:

To my mind a Mozart allegro is the most perfect model for a symphonic movement. Think of its wonderful unity and homogeneity! It is like an uninterrupted flowing, where nothing stands out and nothing encroaches upon the rest.

Symphony No 3 in C major, Op 52, is in three movements with the finale combining a scherzo and finale into a single movement. Sibelius said this movement is “the crystallization of thought from chaos”. The scherzo portionplays with several short motifs, blending and juxtaposing them in a seemingly endless variety of combinations”. As the finale approaches, the cellos introduce a march motif that begins hesitantly, then grows in intensity until it becomes the dominant theme to the end of the symphony.

One might suppose that the symphony lacks the typical Sibelian fire and nobility of its predecessors. One would be mistaken. A conductor who had witnessed Sibelius himself conducting the Third Symphony had this to say:

[It] was played in a vigorous manner, with markedly emphatic accentuation, so that it gave an impression of the heroic rather than pastoral.

~Program notes by William Driver

Symphony No. 3 in C Major, Op. 52 – Program Notes

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