When musicians in the Helsinki Philharmonic played through the newly discovered sketches of what may be a draft of Sibelius’s destroyed eighth symphony, one or two of them can be seen suppressing a yawn. it was not until they had played the music that all of the musicians were told what it was – and then everyone got their handkerchieves out and shared a historic snuffle.
I mention this only because the authenticity of these sketches as part of the eighth symphony is not instantly apparent and cannot yet be determined with certainty. Listening for the fifth time to the run-through, I hear nothing that suggests Sibelius is heading anywhere untrodden in this work. It sounds familiar, it sounds like Sibelius. There is even a woody phrase that calls mid-period Mahler to mind.
A cache of letters, disclosed today by Vesa Siren in the Helsingin Sanomat, suggests that Sibelius may have been contemplating a choral part for his symphony – and that would have been a first. But all is haze and smoke at present. The discovery is momentous. Let us see where else is leads.