Baiba Skride (Photo: Marco Borggreve)

Sibelius and Nørgård

This concert was played:

  1. Six humoresques for violin og orchestra
  2. Symphony no. 2 - in one movement
  3. Two serenades for violin og orchestra
  4. Symphony no. 5
  1. John Storgårds Conductor
  2. Baiba Skride Violin

Baiba Skride attracted a lot of attention with the Szymanowski recordings she made with the Oslo Philharmonic. Now she is back with some violin gems by Sibelius.

Finnish conductor John Storgårds has also recently recorded with the Oslo Philharmonic: New recordings of Per Nørgård's symphonies will be released the same week as this concert.

In advance of Jean Sibelius’ (1865-1957) 50th birthday, the Finnish government commissioned a symphony from him, which was to be his fifth. Sibelius had premiered his fourth in 1911 and in the following years constantly took notes for new symphonies. He drew a lot of inspiration from the nature surrounding his home, and expressed great enthusiasm for his new ideas in his diary. He describes perhaps the most famous theme of the symphony, the so-called swan hymn in the third movement, as having been written in a moment of great joy after having seen 16 swans take off.

The world premiere took place on his birthday, 8th December 1915. The composer was by this time a national hero in Finland, and the symphony was well received. But as he made it ready for publication, he noticed he wasn't happy with it. Over the next few years he periodically reworked the symphony; leaving it fallow for months at a time, interrupted by other projects. A revised version was performed in 1916, but Sibelius was still not satisfied. The final version of the symphony was premiered in November 1919 and has since been one of his most popular works.

Long before Jean Sibelius established himself as a composer, he dreamed of becoming a virtuoso violin soloist. Despite rapid progress in his teens, he never reached the top of that profession, and he described it as a huge setback to finally realise he had started too late. Nevertheless, he succeeded in expressing his love for the instrument through the music he wrote for it.

The Two serenades were written in the years 1912-1913, and first performed with the fifth symphony at its premiere in 1915. They may sometimes bring forth memories of Sibelius' violin concerto, but the mood is generally more moderated − the first serenade is light and humorous, the other more melancholic.

Six humoresques (op. 87 and 89) were written in 1917 "in the shadow of" World War I, and of the fifth symphony. He considered collecting these ideas in a new violin concerto − perhaps the unfinished symphony stood in the way. The humoresques were ultimately premiered in Helsinki the same evening as the final version of Symphony no. 5, 24th November 1919, with the composer conducting.

One might expect much cheerfulness in a collection of humoresques, but although they are not gloomy, there is a solemn undertone in the music. Sibelius described them as an expression of "the anguish of existence ... fitfully lit up by the sun." The six pieces alternate between dark and light, and between warm melodic and playful virtuosic sections.

Per Nørgård (b. 1932) was from early in his career a great admirer of Jean Sibelius. Nørgård perceived in his older colleague a deeper radicalism. He adopted some of Sibelius' principles when he developed his own musical language, where the theory of "infinite series" of tones is quite central and mathematical formulae specify tone rows. Nørgård's principles may remind of serialism, but the music sounds different from the music usually associated with the term.

In Symphony No. 2 from 1970 it is possible to hear parallels to Sibelius' last symphonies, where he sought symphonic unity and wanted to achieve variety by new means. In Nørgård's music, unity consists in the entire symphony having a continuous pulse with rhythms moving within the orchestra. Parallels have also been drawn from the symphony in completely different directions; it has been referred to as a commentary on American minimalism and as a precursor to the later decades of ambient music.


  • Adult: 100 - 450 NOK
  • Senior: 100 - 350 NOK
  • Student: 100 - 225 NOK
  • Child: 100 NOK

The concert is included in the following subscriptions:

Pre-concert talk

Thomas Erma Møller introduces the concert in Glasshuset (in Oslo Concert Hall) at 630 pm.