Is Sibelius sending us messages from the great beyond? (update)

Is Sibelius sending us messages from the great beyond? (update)


norman lebrecht

December 14, 2011

Something very weird is happening in Finland.

You may recall that, last month, sketches were found for the Sibelius eighth symphony, thought to have been completely destroyed. Before news of the discovery broke in Helsingin Sanomat, the local Disney Donald Duck magazine had gone to print with a story called “Sipulius and lost symphony” by Kari Korhonen.


In the story, “Sipulius” writes an eighth symphony on commission for Uncle Scrooge who finds that the main theme has a a Morse rhythm that reads: “Uncle Scrooge is a cheapskate penny pincher”. Scrooge then hid the symphony in his safe for decades.

Challenged by his nephews, Scrooge produces the score for a world premiere. The late “Sipilius” is seen leaving the concert hall after decades of silence. “Will you ever compose another symphony”, nephews ask. “I was a composer, not a fortune teller”, answers Sipulius.

The editor of the magazine spilled his coffee on reading Vesa Siren’s story in the Sanomat and went rushing to the magazine’s web page to post a video of the first performance of fragments of Sibelius 8 onto the Donald Duck website.

Doesn’t get much weirder than that.


UPDATE: Vesa Siren adds:

When duck story appeared I phoned the editor to congratulate him and Mr. Korhonen,  and the editor told me the story was comissioned last year. Mr. Korhonen’s work is really good. He lets our Donald search the symphony from the house where “Sipulius” was born, for example, and the house looks just like the real house in Hämeenlinna. Also, of course, the famous painting by Akseli Gallen-Kallela, showing Sibelius drinking with Kajanus and Gallen-Kallela, is versioned etc.


It is really nice to think that some kids that are interested in music and like the cartoon story might use the link and hear this strange music.


But no, I can’t find the “morse alphabet theme” from actual sketches:-)


  • Sibelius was a cornerstone in the formulation of Finnish national identity, hence the country’s almost obsessive Angst that he didn’t complete any compositions during the last thirty years of his life. The myths surrounding Sibelius and his fallow years are so common in Finland it’s probably not very coincidental that they were parodied in a comic book.

    Sibelius and his music were strongly appropriated not only by Donald Duck, but also by the Nazis, which troubles the Finns whose alliance with Germany during the war remains a painful embarrassment. Vesa Sirén has an interesting article about the attempts counter Adorno’s denunciations of Sibelius, even if the topic seems an impenetrable forest of biased opinions on all sides. You can read it here:

  • So, Disney has an issue with Uncle Scrooge?