At the end of the last century Finland was a part of the Russian dominion and subjected increasingly to political repression. In 1899 its right of self-government was removed and freedom of speech was severely restricted. A series of events was arranged in Helsinki for November of that year, ostensibly to raise money for the Press Pensions Fund, but they became more of a political rally. The climax was a gala performance at the Swedish Theatre which included a series of six tableaux depicting events in Finnish history. Sibelius wrote the music, and it was the last movement, called ‘Finland Awakes’ which he later adapted as an overture for the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra to play at the Paris World Exhibition. The title Finlandia
came from an admirer, although it was some time before the music bore that name, first having alternative titles less likely to attract the attention of the Russian censor. The music depicts Finland’s emerging national consciousness, its artistic awakening, its folk culture, its material progress, and its legends. It includes the famous ‘Finlandia’ melody which has been widely adopted as a hymn tune.
Herbert Fricker was a British-born organist who spent the latter part of his career in North America where he established himself as a choral conductor, and whose noteworthy achievements included directing a broadcast performance of Bach’s B minor Mass from the 1939 New York World’s Fair. His arrangement of Finlandia was published in 1907, at a time when he was city organist in the northern English city of Leeds.
from notes by Ian Carson © 1994