Finns pay a fortune for 1,200 pages of Sibelius

Finns pay a fortune for 1,200 pages of Sibelius


norman lebrecht

December 08, 2020

The Finnish National Archive announced today, on the composer’s birthday, that it had acquired 1200 pages of Sibelius manuscripts once owned by the Lienau publishing house.

They include the autographs of the violin concerto, 3rd symphony and ‘Voces intimae’ quartet.

Nobody’s saying what they paid but it’s thought to be in the high six figures.



  • Stuart says:

    How can the title claim that they paid a fortune if “Nobody’s saying what they paid”?

    • William Safford says:

      I guess that the wording is, um, unfortunate….

    • Herbie G says:

      Maybe it was inFinnate…

    • Paul Dawson says:

      The alliteration could have been extended by “Finns pay fortune for Sibelius folios”.

      • Herbie G says:

        What about ‘Famous Finn folio find fetches phenomenal fortune for finders’.
        When I say NL’s initial strapline for this thread, I had an initial frisson – could the complete manuscript of the 8th Symphony be among them? Aino said, years after his death, that after Sibelius had been working on it for years and then, one morning, she looked through the window and saw him standing by an enormous bonfire. So I won’t get my hopes up yet! On the other hand, is there any forensic evidence that the 8th symphony was on that pyre? A couple of fragments were found in the effects of a deceased copyist who had been charged with making up the orchestral parts – these are now on YouTube. They only amount to a couple of minutes, but I suppose that Anthony Payne might consider that enough to make up a forty-minute symphony!

  • Karl says:

    I want the numbers too. Who is worth more, Sibelius or Dylan?

  • Greg Bottini says:

    “High six figures”? “A fortune”?
    Puhleeeeze. Trump has solid gold toilets probably worth more than that.

    • pianoguy says:

      yeah, and he can flush his law suits and entire Twitter history down them when he finally packs his bags and leaves the WH.

      • Greg Bottini says:

        Yes, pianoguy….
        I’m so looking forward to that day….

        • V. Lind says:

          You, me and civilisation as we know it. Can the age of Anti-Enlightenment finally be over? Britain has come to the end of its Anno Dominic and the Exploding Orange is about to go. Boris’ days are numbered, and there seems to be SOME light — though I suspect still a very faint one — on Covid.

          2021 may be a sunnier upland, to quote someone I normally detest but who is shining in comparison to some of this lot.

    • William Safford says:

      Nah, they’re gold plated.

  • Torun Torbo says:

    Do you have a link? I wanted to mention this on the Norwegian classical radio channel, but I can’t find any extra info.

  • yujafan says:

    Sibelius is priceless, so autographs of these works are really valuable no matter how you look at it

  • Edgar Self says:

    The violin concerto autograph could be significant, depending on which version it is. When Kavakos, Vanska, and the Lahti orchestra recorded the original unpublished version for Mr. von Bahr and BIS, the Sibelius estate reportedly permitted the recording and one performance only before requiring return of the score and parts Perhaps that has changed, or will change now, but I’ve heard of no other performances or recordings of the original ersion. .

    Sibelius had problems with the dedication and premiere. extensively revising the first movement, which originally had a second cadenza, and the “polonaise for plar bears” finale The songful second movement stayed much the same. It’s a marvelous recording, like all of BIS Sibelius series.

  • Herbie G says:

    If my memory serves me well, the Sibelius executors were originally very reluctant to allow the original version of the Violin Concerto to be performed or recorded. They finally relented but stipulated that the recording should feature a Finnish soloist; when none of a suitable standard could be found to do the job, they allowed Kavakos to record it. It’s wonderful to hear it; there are many differences between this and the final version; the original contains more music – several excursions off-piste that make you sit up with a jolt after having after being accustomed over the years to the final version. It’s like hearing the original ‘Night on the Bare Mountain’ after the familiar sanitised Rimsky revision.
    I think the deal was that this would be the only recording ever made of this version, though I guess that the copyright should expire in just under 7 years’ time, in which case it will be a free-for-all.

    All Sibelians owe Robert von Bar a massive debt of gratitiude for his phenomenal edition – I hesitate to say ‘complete’ because if I did, then tomorrow there would be yet another volume of pieces recently discovered and previously unperformed, found in a dusty suitcase at the back of the left-luggage department at Helsinki Central Station, which had been lying there for 100 years after Sibelius deposited it there, went out on the razzle, got plastered on vodka and was dragged home by Aino with the memory of the suitcase having been obliterated through the brain damage inflicted by the small amount of blood that had contaminated his alcohol stream.
    Seriously though, these BIS CDs are an amazing treasure trove.

    • Greg Bottini says:

      Hi, Herbie G – I’m replying to you and Edgar Self at the same time here.
      We ALL OF US should stand on our hind legs and give a huge BRAVO to Robert von Bahr!
      I can think of no SINGLE person in history other than RvB who has given so much of their time and energy to make accessible the complete works of a single composer, the genius Jean Sibelius.
      The record labels Hungaroton (on behalf of Bartok) and Selene (on behalf of Chopin), and the many fine individuals working at those labels, have of course done yeoman work for their respective countrymen.
      But in terms of ONE MAIN MAN spearheading such a project, RvB is that man.
      THANK YOU, ROBERT VON BAHR, for being Sibelius’ musical Boswell!!!!
      BRAVO!!!! MILLI BRAVI!!!!

  • ´dgar Self says:

    Long efore Robert von Bahr’s admirable BIS series, there were HMV’s Sibelius Society sets by Beecham: a marvelous En Saga with Leon Goossens’s oboe, The Bard, Pelleas and Melisaned, the In Memoriam funeral mach. I remember Koussevitzky’s Tapiola with horns hrieking like the Krell in “Forbidden Planet”, and second symphony, the latter also from his nephew Fabien Sevitzky ive in Indianapolis; Anthony Collins’s first symphony, Jascha Heifetz and Beecham in the violin concerto ‘s final revision. ; Malcolm Sargent and the VPO in a CD of tone poems, and Lorin Maazel’s cycle of symphonies with the VPO.

    On radio recently I heard Mariss Janssons and the Boston Symphony play the second symphony with a disappointing slow movement and finale lacking the grandeur that other conductors find in it.

    • Greg Bottini says:

      Hi Edgar,
      If you can find it, give a listen to Karajan’s 1960 Philharmonia recording of the Fifth Sym. (I believe it’s HvK’s first stereo version – I have it on an EMI CD, 4-76882-2).
      The buildup of tension, and its release, in the 1st mvt. is absolutely mind-blowing, and it is one of the finest recorded performances of ANY Sibelius by ANYBODY. It is, quite simply, majestic, and it’s one of the greatest examples of Karajan’s art.

      • Edgar Self says:

        Thanks, Greg, I will find and hear Katajan’s Sibelius Fifth with the Philharmonia. I well remember his excellent Sixth with them.

    • dgar Self says:

      Nelsons, not Janssons. It’s not my week.