Violin Concerto, Cassazione, Have You Courage?, The Origin of Fire, for baritone, male choir and orchestra & Valse triste
Violin Concerto (sol. Viktor Nováček), Cassazione (version for large orchestra), Have You Courage? (Muntra Musikanter), The Origin of Fire, for baritone, male choir and orchestra (sol. Abraham Ojanperä)
The early version of the violin concerto got a mixed reception at its premiere: Päivälehti’s Oskar Merikanto at one extreme and Nya Pressen’s Karl Flodin at the other. Without exception, the solo part was, however, considered excessively virtuosic, and even Merikanto was forced to admit that “the technical difficulty of the work will probably mean that this concerto will very seldom be seen in violinists’ repertoire”. Viktor Nováček, a violin teacher at the Helsinki Music Institute, appears to have given an astonishingly good performance: he played the concerto from memory and had to repeat the second movement in response to the audience’s applause. Sibelius was not, however, satisfied with the reception, withdrew the concerto after only a few performances and revised it in the early months of the following year.
One of the most popular pieces ever composed by Sibelius, the Valse triste was one of the items in the incidental music for the play Death by Arvid Järnefelt. At the premiere of the concert version the audience demanded to hear it a second time. According to Helsingfors-Posten, the audience was immediately impressed, and Sibelius conducted it “with almost inimitable refinement”.
Text: Timo Virtanen
Picture: The National Library of Finland