London Symphony Orchestra and Sir Colin Davis present the music of Nielsen and Sibelius

LSO President Sir Colin Davis begins a two-year survey of Nielsen’s six symphonies and continues his well-known love for the music of Sibelius, alongside conductors Kristjan Järvi, John Adams and Robin Ticciati, who makes his LSO debut this season.

Sir Colin Davis says:

‘Sibelius and Nielsen have certain universal things in common. Both are obsessive: Nielsen is obsessive, almost relentless, with certain figures, and you could say that Sibelius’s relentless pedal points have something in common with that. I haven’t been close to Nielsen’s music until now, but in looking for new repertory for the Orchestra I have spent time with the fourth and fifth symphonies, and found it increasingly fascinating. There’s such a destructive force in the man and he lets it loose in the most surprising ways. The forms that Nielsen chooses seem to develop out of themselves. You could say that is also the case in Sibelius’s music but Nielsen’s is a much more discrepant and wilder way of going on. We are faced with the problem of making a consecutive narrative out if it and not just painting a nice picture and then slashing it to pieces.

'It’s true of every composer but Sibelius’s sound is unique. It is pitched rather low, unlike Mediterranean music which is higher up, so you suspect that in the darkness of his symphonies, things may be lying hidden. It has enormous emotional power, and that’s what really grasps people. All his symphonies are very different from one another. As he got older the music became more compressed – the Seventh is only 22 minutes but it feels like a lifetime. You are involved with the development of a very complex man when you are dealing with his music.

'The energy in these pieces is astounding. And there is a continual threat to order – take the Seventh where his great trombone theme is subject to the most inordinate onslaught. What does it mean? Well a noble tune like that in C major must stand for human idealism, and the suffering that the idealism has to go through in order to match up with reality. There’s a mystery about the first movement of the Fifth Symphony; it has all kinds of eerie spirits lying around it. I once went to Finland in the height of summer and I stayed in a woodland cabin, and what with the insects and the heat and the light and the birch trees and a couple of vodkas, you could imagine anything would come out of that forest.‘

Sir Colin Davis conducts:
1 & 4 October 2009, 7.30pm, Barbican Hall
NIELSEN Symphony No 5
MOZART Symphony No 34 Piano Concerto No 20 with Radu Lupu

8 October 2009, 7.30pm, Barbican Hall
SIBELIUS Symphony No 5
BEETHOVEN Violin Concerto with Arabella Steinbacher

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