Sibelius clarinet solo becomes overnight hit

Sibelius clarinet solo becomes overnight hit


norman lebrecht

December 08, 2022

The solo from the Sibelius first symphony, played on TV by principal clarinet Christoffer Sundqvist of the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra on independence day this week, is going straight through the roof.

Yesterday, it drew 10,000 repeat viewers, today twice as many.

Bigger than Finlandia? Watch here.

Esa-Pekka Salonen has written a concerto for Sundqvist.

UPDATE: Sibelius was born on this day, in 1865.


  • RW2013 says:

    It is certainly no achievement to upstage the most boring and uninspired of all conductors as the one who is conducting.

    • Tamino says:

      Are you working for TV? In the days when music mattered, the visuals of a conductor mattered little. What mattered was the music and the sound he helped to shape.

      Which conductors look the most energetic and „inspired“ in your opinion? Give us your top 5 list with video clips. (no sound necessary for the videos)

    • trumpetherald says:

      For people listening for cheap thrills,yes…..For serious musicians,and music connaisseurs,no…..Played thr first time for him in 1985….,ca.15 times till 2019.Always finding something fresh,..details “inspired”geniuses playing for the gallery overlook , shaken so much by their own emotions..One of the very best!!!

  • Novagerio says:

    Paljon onnea Janne!

  • Novagerio says:

    just remember to mention that the conductor is Jukka-Pekka Saraste.

    • Novagerio says:

      Thanks to the nitwit who gives me a thumbs-down for pointing out a simple detail…

      • Tamino says:

        It wasn’t me with the thumbs down, but why is it important to point out the conductor in this? He is quite irrelevant in this clip about this clarinet solo. You might as well point out the architect of the hall, or the man who cut the trees for the wooden floor, or the maker of the clarinet. Enough with the narcissistic conductor-cult. 🙂

        • Novagerio says:

          Tamino: it’s not that, it’s that NL mentions EP Salonen for no reason. Some people here might confuse both conductors

          • Larry W says:

            Norman said Salonen wrote a concerto for Sundqvist, not that he was conducting in the video. You are the one who is confused.

  • Mem says:

    Glad he uses (some) vibrato. English clarinetists used vibrato. Who decided that vibrato is verboten for classical clarinetists? Don’t give me any of those specious physics arguments like the presence of certain overtones makes vibrato bad for clarinets. Nonsense. Classical music is literally the only genre where clarinetists refuse to use vibrato. The prejudice is so great that even saxophonists are practically vibrato-less in classical music. Silly silly tradition, and it severely limits the expressiveness of clarinet playing. My 2 cents.

    • Old Man in the Midwest says:

      As a clarinetist, I must agree with you. While I am American trained, I have studied in London and came to love that expressive style of playing that is vocal as well.

      The American school ignored vibrato as being verboten. But when used effectively as does this wonderful clarinetist, it is a means of expression as in a voice.

      Bravo to this musicians AND the conductor for leaving the fellow alone to make his artistic statement.

  • Concertgebouw79 says:

    The music of Sibelius has many hits impossible to not be seduce very quickly by the start of Karelia or En Saga. The stupidity of many orchestras in West and central Europe is to don’t play enough Sibelius. But it starts to change thanks to Rouvali and Mäkelä.

    • CarlD says:

      The Florida Orchestra will be doing Sibelius 5 and the Swan of Tuonela in February.

    • Novagerio says:

      Boy, you certainly is a millenial…!

    • Mr. Ron says:

      Actually, a long time ago Concertgebouw9, Eugene Ormandy championed Sibelius. He made many wonderful recordings and went to Finland to meet the composer. They are still wonderful recordings.

      • Concertgebouw79 says:

        Yes but the Concertgebouw never did a complete cycle of all the symphonies. There’s the 2th symphony by Szell a record I have in cd and lp, the one with e bird on the cover.

      • NYMike says:

        And Serge Koussevitzky championed Sibelius in Boston even before Ormandy with iconic recordings of the 2nd (twice), 5th, and 7th.

    • MacroV says:

      They do #1, 2, and 5 pretty regularly, but could do the others more. And they could do Kullervo a lot more.

    • AlbericM says:

      Through at least the 1940s, Sibelius was quite popular in the U.S. Only when the Schönberg/Stravinsky modernism came to dominate was Sibelius then treated as old-fashioned and denigrated.

  • Tweettweet says:

    Wow, fantastic colours and dynamics! Impressive and touching!

  • Herbie G says:

    What about the xylophone solo at the beginning of Nielsen’s Sixth Symphony? It’s loaded with emotional punch and there are so many different ways to play it – only a master percussionist player can bring it off successfully – so many performances have been ruined by a lack of real commitment. And could we have a recording of just the tymp solo that begins Beethoven’s Violin Concerto – it is such a formidable introduction to a masterpiece. Finally, how about the whip at the beginning of Ravel’s G major Piano Concerto? So easily dispatched without true devotion.

  • hearsay says:

    In common with beginning of the big tune in Finlandia, the opening tune of Tapiola, the Scherzo from the 2nd Symphony, and probably some other melodies by Sibelius the shape of the first 5 notes of this solo describes the letter S lying on its back. I read somewhere that this is a signature. True?

  • Hobbes says:

    How is it an update to add that today is the anniversary of Sibelius’ birth? Breaking news? Or just an indicator of the quality of research on SD?

  • Mr. Ron says:

    It is mournful but very beautiful. Sibelius was a superb composer; too bad he never, to my knowledge, wrote a clarinet concerto.

  • Dude says:

    He teaches in Sibelius Academy. Very high level class.

  • Carl says:

    He certainly moves around a lot when he plays. The girl next to him looks annoyed at all the gesticulating.

    • Gil says:

      Hahaha.. actually i was feeling very serene, but i can see how it might look different 🙂 Not at all annoyed. On the contrary, i love playing with Christoffer Sundquist – always inspired and in the moment.