Tone Poem Tuesday (and Composer Focus: Sibelius, part 4)

 It’s not Tuesday. Sorry about that.

But let’s give a listen to something our boy Jean Sibelius wrote in 1908: a tone poem called Night Ride and Sunrise. It’s quite an evocative piece, starting with a brief fanfare figure in the brass before settling into a rhythm that suggest hoofbeats along a dark road, the “Night Ride” of our title. It seems as if we’re going to be in for a long stretch without a melody, until one arises in the upper woodwinds, playing above the rhythmic pulse; this melody yearns and stretches and yet somehow manages to stay almost in the background. Our rhythm gives way to long scalewise passages in the winds, as our texture becomes colder, stormier, more dramatic.

Eventually, though, our sunrise arrives, and it is exactly what one might expect from a Sibelian sunrise: shot through with clarity and nobility, with simple magnificence. Even here, when the chorales in the winds and brass take over, there is still momentum to spare in the continuing pulsing rhythms. I’m coming to see that for Sibelius, a blend of textures is always afoot.

Here is Night Ride and Sunrise by Jean Sibelius.

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