Virtual Music Hour

  Sibelius Archive

  Introduction to Sibelius Symphony No. 5 in E-flat major, Op. 82

  Listen to the Music

Movement 1

Movement 2

Movement 3


Welcome to Virtual Music Hour. In preparation for your listening experience, Assistant Principal Violist Catherine Beeson has made guides with activities that can be enjoyed alone, with your quarantine buddies at home and online, or with your students. These activities can be mixed, matched, and altered to create an experience that’s right for you, or as inspiration to create your own. Get as creative as you’d like. Share it with us on social media! If you like seeing and hearing the Colorado Symphony musicians online, imagine how uplifting it would be for us to see and hear you too!

One of the most moving and inspirational pieces of symphonic music from the early 20th century, Jean Sibelius’ Symphony No. 5 stands as a fine example of the diligent work (verb form!) of art that also speaks directly to the human heart. Enjoy learning a bit about Symphony No. 5 and listening to your Colorado Symphony’s performance. Heck, listen to it twice. It’s only a half hour!

  Composed between 1914-1915, and subsequently revised in 1916 and 1919, it took Jean Sibelius the entire span of WWI and the Finnish Civil War to complete his Symphony No. 5.

  Symphony No. 5 lasts for about half an hour and is in three movements, or musical chapters.

  While he was composing the original version, Sibelius wrote in his diary “It is as if God Almighty had thrown down pieces of a mosaic for heaven’s floor and asked me to find out what was the original pattern.” Pressure much?? On the final revised version, he said “I wished to give my symphony another, more human, form. More down-to-earth, more vivid.” Seems like he accomplished both those things!

  Inspiration for the last movement came from Sibelius observing a group of 16 swans lift off, circle over him, and then fly away.

  Themes, motives, and entire sections of Symphony No. 5 have been showcased or used by composers of songs, movies, and television shows as far ranging as Mozart in the Jungle, Leonard Bernstein, John Coltrane, and Disney’s Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas.

  Sibelius somehow produces a massive sound out of a quite medium sized orchestra of 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, timpani, and strings.

Here is a listening map that can guide you through your listening experience. Read it in advance or while you’re listening!

Movement 1

Tempo molto moderato - Allegro moderato (ma poco a poco stretto - Vivace molto - Presto - Più presto
In English:  Very moderate tempo - Medium quick but bit by bit quickening - Very lively - Fast - Faster

This music begins with a horn call. Then fragments of that call get tossed around in the woodwinds to open the symphony incrementally like a flower or a sunrise. Strings enter with frenetic energy that begins to engulf the idyllic halcyon of the winds/brass. Like a lobster in a pot of heating water, we don’t quite realize Sibelius has constructed the music to speed up bit by bit until that speed is really upon us. The movement ends in wild triumph.

The early part of the 20th century saw a push for new ideas to the symphonic form as well as a general push for new ideas in harmony. This was a time dominated by Arnold Schoenberg and Igor Stravinsky, as well as Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel. Sibelius had an established reputation as a respected composer but now approaching his 50s he was starting to be sidelined by critics for appearing to hold on to “old” ideas. Sibelius struggled with whether to change with the times or continue the path he would’ve chosen without this external motivator.

Over and again we learn stories of composers choosing a path that seems incorrect to others: Bach stood firm in his belief that Baroque compositional practice was legitimate and is now known as King of the Fugue; Beethoven eschewed a wildly successful and lucrative piano performance career in order to spend his time and energy on composition; Sibelius is now considered to have innovated within the “old” late 19th century style he appreciated.

Consider and discuss this struggle with your quarantine buddies.

  What other examples can you think of in history?

  What are some examples you can think of from your own experience? What were the outcomes?

Have you ever tried making musical mashups? Sometimes combining different melodies works really well and other times not so much. Sibelius really likes making mashups in his Symphony No. 5. He especially does this in the second movements. It sounds good in the beginning, but later, in some sections, it sounds like the two different tunes he’s combining are really not working out alright … Still, it’s somehow pretty cool to listen to!

Here’s a chance to try that out: First, get a family member or a quarantine buddy who likes to have fun experimenting with music. Take a couple of songs you think will very likely work together and try mashing them up a few different ways until you’re satisfied it’s working. Now, find another couple of songs that seem very different. Try mashing them up and see what you have to do to get them to work together.

  What did you need to change about the tune(s)?

  What strategies did you use that were similar or different from the first set of tunes?

  Do you think your mashups successfully communicated the original ideas from the individual tunes or did they make a new idea together?

  Listen for the way Sibelius makes melodic mashups in Symphony No. 5 and compare them to yours!

Now that you’ve had a chance to consider, discuss, and get active around Sibelius’ Symphony No. 5 it’s time to listen to the Colorado Symphony performance. There are all sorts of ways to engage as a listener, especially when listening at home instead of the concert hall. Sing/hum/whistle along, move and dance, journal or draw what you hear, or just turn the volume up and listen for sheer pleasure! Please share your experience with us! We would love to hear about it or see any of your activities, journaling, or creations!



Please share your musical adventure with us through social media! We would love to hear about it or see any of your activities, journaling, or creations!


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