The Sibelius centenary and a European tour


The Sibelius centenary

1965 marked the centenary of the birth of Jean Sibelius. The festivities were organised by a Cabinet-appointed committee and the HPO went on tour to Central Europe during which almost all the music it performed was by Sibelius. Right at the beginning of the jubilee year, it also gave two Sibelius gala concerts, and it was well represented during the Sibelius Weeks.

On 8.12.1965 a state gala concert was held at which both the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra and the Radio Symphony Orchestra performed. The soloist was the winner of the first Sibelius Violin Competition, Oleg Kagan. The Sibelius centenary was nevertheless criticised as being uninteresting, so maybe the time for it was not favourable.

The European tour

The original aim of the European tour (12.9.—5.10.) was to fortify Sibelius’s position in Europe in this his jubilee year. Finding a conductor proved to be a real problem. In the end, the orchestra was conducted for part of the time by Sir John Barbirolli and for part of the time by Jorma Panula. The works performed included the first and seventh symphonies and the Violin Concerto, with Henryk Szeryng as the soloist. Towards the end, the soloist was Anita Välkki, in songs by Sibelius.

The tour took in no fewer than 13 countries, and such cities as London, Amsterdam, Vienna, Munich, Warsaw, Leningrad, Prague, Budapest and Leipzig. All in all, it was a success, but it was criticised for its excessive emphasis on Sibelius. Maybe the secret of certain success is not to devise concert programmes relying on a single composer, even if that composer is Sibelius.

Text: Salla Viitanen