Almost a quarter of Sibelius’s songs are settings of Johan Ludvig Runeberg (1804-1877), the great Finnish poet writing in Swedish, and without doubt Sibelius’s favourite poet. The Opus 13 settings are all Runeberg and they come from the early 1890s: indeed, they were announced in the press as early as 1892, the same year in which he had scored his breakthrough with the Kullervo
Symphony. They include Våren flyktar hastigt
(‘Spring is flying’) and Under strandens granar
(‘Under the fir-trees’), the latter written on his honeymoon at Monola in Lake Pielsjärvi in the summer of 1892. Runeberg’s poem has something of the spirit of a folk-ballad: it tells how a watersprite seduces a handsome youth by assuming various disguises. Sibelius’s setting makes use of some freely-conceived recitative and the piano texture is obviously conceived in orchestral terms.
from notes by Robert Layton © 2002