50th birthday concert: Symphony No. 5, first version, Aallottaret, Finnish premiere, Serenades 1 & 2 for violin and orchestra (sol. Richard Burgin)


Sibelius’s latest works were almost overshadowed in the press by his 50th birthday celebrations on 8th December 1915. The pages were full of the birthday events in different parts of Finland, the tributes paid and the speeches made at the gala concert and dinner, and the works performed at the concert got barely a mention.

Aallottaret, a major work and one premiered to high acclaim the previous year at Norfolk in the USA got only a brief report, and not even the fifth symphony was granted much column space. Sibelius had already been hailed as “Finland’s greatest son” and a world-class composer. The fine words did not, however, convince him on the subject of his fifth symphony. He therefore revised it, and the new version was performed for the first time in Turku exactly one year later.

Text: Timo Virtanen
Picture: HPO's archive