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The Finns swiftly adopted Sibelius and his works as symbols of national pride, particularly following the première of the overtly patriotic Finlandia in 1900, composed a few months after Finland’s legislative rights had been taken away by Russia. ’Well, we shall see now what the new century brings with it for Finland and us Finns’, Sibelius wrote on New Year’s Day in 1900. The public in Finland recognised the idealistic young composer as a champion of national freedom, while his tuneful Finlandia was taken into the repertoire of orchestras around the world. In 1914 Sibelius visited America, composing a bold new work, The Oceanides, for the celebrated Norfolk Music Festival in Connecticut.
Although Sibelius lived to the age of 91, he effectively abandoned composition almost 30 years earlier. Heavy drinking, illness, relentless self-criticism and financial problems were among the conditions that influenced his early retirement. He was, however, honoured as a great Finnish hero long after he ceased composing, while his principal works became established as an essential part of the orchestral repertoire.
from notes by Andrew Stewart ©