Composers Datebook®

Sibelius passes

Jean Sibelius (1865-1957): Alla Marcia, from Karelia Suite –Finnish Radio Symphony; Jukka-Pekka Saraste, cond. (RCA 7765)

Composer's Datebook - September 20, 2022


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September 20, 2022


Today’s date commemorates the death, in 1957, of the most famous Finnish composer of modern times, Jean Sibelius. Born in 1865, Sibelius studied at the University of Helsinki, developed a strong sense of nationalism in the 1890s, and achieved world fame in the first years of the 20th century. He wrote little after the First World War, however, and lived his last 30 years in almost complete seclusion.

Even so, he was one of the most popular composers of his time. In 1938, a recording of his tone-poem “Finlandia” was selected as one of only three pieces of music to be deposited along with other artifacts of modern civilization in an indestructible time capsule buried on the site of the New York World’s Fair.

By 1957, the enormous acclaim that Sibelius enjoyed during his lifetime had faded somewhat, but these days his reputation seems on the rise once again, as does the influence of Finnish music in general.

A remarkable number of talented composers are thriving in that tiny nation today, and operas, orchestral works, and chamber pieces by contemporary Finnish composers like Aulis Sallinen, Einojuhanni Rautavaara, Magnus Lindberg and Kaija Saariaho are increasingly finding worldwide audiences.

Sibelius would have been very pleased.

Music Played in Today's Program

Jean Sibelius (1865-1957): Alla Marcia, from Karelia Suite –Finnish Radio Symphony; Jukka-Pekka Saraste, cond. (RCA 7765)

On This Day


  • 1880 - Italian composer Ildebrando Pizetti, in Parma;

  • 1885 - Frequently cited birth date of American composer and jazz pianist Ferdinand "Jelly Roll" Morton, in New Orleans; This date has been proven incorrect (See October 20, 1890);

  • 1900 - Finnish composer Unno Klami, in Virolahti;


  • 1908 - Spanish violin virtuoso and composer Pablo de Sarasate, age 63, in Biarritz;

  • 1957 - Finnish composer Jean Sibelius, age 91, in Järvenpää;


  • 1878 - Tchaikovsky: "Valse-scherzo" for violin and orchestra, in Paris, with Nicolai Rubinstein conducting and Stanislaw Barcewicz the soloist;

  • 1930 - first public performance of Elgar: "Pomp and Circumstance" March No. 5, at Queen's Hall in London, Sir Henry Wood conducting; The first performance ever of this music occurred two days earlier, when Elgar himself recorded his new march at HMV's London studios;

  • 1954 - Stravinsky: "In Memoriam Dylan Thomas," in Los Angeles, conducted by Robert Craft; Stravinsky had met the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas the previous year, and they had discussed collaborating on an opera project, but Thomas died on November 9, 1953;

  • 1975 - Jack Beeson: opera "Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines" in Kansas City, Mo.