A very civilised diplomacy

A very civilised diplomacy


norman lebrecht

October 30, 2011

I returned from Spain to find an invitation on my desk from the Finnish Ambassador.

It’s to a book launch tomorrow with a little recital to follow – unfortunately, I cannot attend – but what struck me most was the esoteric nature of the book being launched. It amounts to the correspondence between a British music critic and a Finnish composer, Rosa Newmarch and Jean Sibelius.

Nothing intimate or improper passed between them. Mrs Newmarch was England’s foremost champion of Russian music. Sibelius fell within her realm as Finland’s beacon of independence from Russian rule. They wrote a lot to each other. People did in those days.

What I find remarkable is that the Embassy of Finland has dignified their correspondence as a public event. I cannot imagine that the French or German embassies would throw a reception for a book about an English critic and Claude Debussy or Richard Strauss. Or that the Russians would give a fig about Mrs Newmarch, who did almost as much for their man Tchaikovsky as his patron, Nadezhda von Meck.

But the Finns care about Sibelius, and the Finns do not forget. They are a very cultured corps of diplomats.

The Correspondence of Jean Sibelius and Rosa Newmarch, 1906-1939