Short Takes: Innisfree Garden, Late May (with Sibelius)

8 IMG_0833_edited-1Sunday glistened, a perfect day for a walk at Innisfree Garden. The trees are in full leaf, the grounds are lush and green, and the next wave of flowers is coming on.

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Listening List

Jean Sibelius, Third Symphony in C Major, Op. 52

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The Third Symphony of Sibelius is about the pleasure of making music. Certain pieces by Beethoven are tours de force in composing interestingly, even dramatically, with the most neutral materials imaginable. The Triple Concerto and the Consecration of the House Overture are two unpopular examples and the Emperor Concerto is a popular one. The Sibelius Third is part of this tradition. Its chief traits are modesty and energy. The orchestration, for 1907, is unassuming. The basic, very “classical” sonority is that of strings and woodwinds, and one seems to hear more of the soft-edged flutes and clarinets than of the sharper double-reeds. The horns and drums are busy, but the trumpets and trombones intervene rarely and economically. The first movement has not one half-dozen measures of fortissimo, the second none at all, and the third only two measures before the last minute of peroration.

Michael Steinberg

[A]n “anti-monumental . . . counter-response to Mahler’s expansive Fifth Symphony, which [Sibelius] had studied in 1905,” Sibelius’s Third “strives to recover both the diatonic melodic fragment and the pure triad as meaningful modern utterances by presenting them in non-normative ways.”

—Arnold Whittall, in The Cambridge Companion to Sibelius, quoting James Hepokoski’s Sibelius.


Credits: The quotations may be found at the sources linked in the text. The photographs, as always unless otherwise indicated, are mine.

12 thoughts on “Short Takes: Innisfree Garden, Late May (with Sibelius)

  1. Mark Kerstetter

    Love the second movement of the Sibelius especially. Happy summer, Sue! We’re into beach weather here. For the next three months we’ll be going at least once a week.

    1. Susan Scheid Post author

      Mark: And happy summer to you! Great resolution to go to the beach every week. I love that second movement, too. It’s really what draws me back in to the Third Symphony again and again.

  2. David N

    Looks like you’ve caught up with us now, to judge from the yello water irises – and the lush, lush vegetation. On non-stop rainy days like today, one of many recently, I just think of the continuing profusion of meadow-like waysides and think that’s one advantage – so long as sun follows.

    Curiously neither of the Sibelius 3 ‘analyses’ you quote come anywhere touching on this symphony’s special atmosphere. It was Sakari Oramo who convinced me of the middle movement’s very peculiar depths. It’s a transitional movement, like the serenade in Mahler’s Seventh Symphony, and unique.

    1. Susan Scheid Post author

      David: I suspect we’re still a bit behind, but certainly spring has sprung. The Sibelius quotations are of course from longer essays, so hardly count on their own as analyses, but rather as introductory comments, at best. What made me choose them was their emphasis on the use of traditional means to reach innovative ends. Each essay from which I quote does focus a good bit on the second movement, with what I found to be interesting insights in each case, though each of them must have preceded knowledge of the research you reported on here: (Steinberg died in 2009 and the Companion was published in 2004.)

  3. shoreacres

    Your photo of the chairs evokes a National Geographic photo of a row of red chairs at Vermont’s Crystal Lake. It’s available as wallpaper now, and I’ve had a copy sitting in my files for a couple of years, just waiting to serve as an illustration for a future post.

    Modesty and energy are a perfectly delightful combination, at least in my experience. I certainly enjoyed the symphony. It brought to mind Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9. I’m not sure why, unless it might be the classical instrumentation that you spoke of. Whatever the experts say, I hear a certain lushness in both symphonies that makes them perfect foils for the increasingly lush growth of early summer that’s surrounding us.

    1. Susan Scheid Post author

      shoreacres: What is it about rows of chairs that is so appealing? Of course, the environment in which they’re to be found is part of the equation, too, isn’t it? Lushness, yes, that’s what I hear, too. That, and the wistful lilt of the second movement had a lot to do with my choice of music this time around–and also that I happened to be listening to Sibelius at the time!

  4. David N

    Sorry to butt in again, but here’s a question about concordance: you know how much we both like the dissonances of climate and seasonal advance (or decline) when we read each other’s and Aussie wanderer’s blogs. But it seems like there might have been absolute harmony of weather if you’re writing about Sunday 18 May. Here, too, everything glistened under clear blue skies – if anything, it was too hot walking over the Downs before a perfect afternoon at Glyndebourne – and the lushness after the rains was extraordinary. So did we on that day have EXACTLY the same weather?

    This may only confirm to your compatriots that we Brits are weather bores. But it’s something that, like the love of a good view, everyone can share in and – in this instance – rejoice over. That we lived to see such a day, etc…

    1. Susan Scheid Post author

      David: Ah, but you may never “butt in” too often from my perspective, so please, “butt” away. Although the photographs posted here were from Sunday 5/25, I’ll take that as consonance of sorts: two beautiful spring Sundays! We, too, by the way, have had a bit of a short supply of perfect weather, so rest assured it’s not only the Brits who rejoice in those rare perfect days.

  5. Brigitta “Britta” Huegel

    Dear Sue,
    Innisfree Garden is so lovely – your slide-show is a real treat. I don’t know whether I have the right English word – king cup – for the yellow sort of sea-lilies in the lake: I loved them already as a child, so beautiful. When husband and I went to Helsinki on our honeymoon we saw the Sibelius monument.

    1. Susan Scheid Post author

      Britta: I should be better about the names, but I seem not to retain most of them, even when I’ve been told, so I just admire what’s in front of me in line, shape, color, and light. They are lovely, aren’t they? Your honeymoon was winter time, wasn’t it? I would think Helsinki in winter would be beautiful . . . though very cold!

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