Jean Sibelius left two major legacies to the world of music. His own compositions – orchestral, dramatic, chamber and song – are recognised globally as masterworks and are performed regularly. His pioneering career provided inspiration for subsequent generations of Finnish musicians – composers, performers, academics and teachers alike.
Both of these legacies are celebrated in Sibelius & Beyond – a major festival taking place in London this autumn. International orchestras, soloists, conductors and chamber musicians will perform Sibelius’ music, and that of his successors, across the city. Major names will rub shoulders with the next generation in concerts spread across London’s finest venues.

During his own lifetime, Jean Sibelius made an international breakthrough in the UK, and still has many kindred spirits in this country. The Sibelius & Beyond festival starts with Sibelius’ music and continues through that of his contemporaries and onto living Finnish composers. One of the aims of this festival is to put an end to the misconception that all Finland has is Sibelius – there is actually a vibrant and varied contemporary musical scene enjoying unparalleled popularity.

The natural reason for organising Sibelius & Beyond was to commemorate 50 years from Sibelius’ death. In addition to the performances there is a lecture series illustrating Sibelius as composer of chamber music. All of Sibelius’ symphonies, the Violin Concerto and much else will be performed.

We are delighted to be collaborating with Britain’s best musical organisations whose own programming fits perfectly with the festival. Warm thanks to the Barbican Centre, Philharmonia Orchestra, Royal Academy of Music, Wigmore Hall, the UK Sibelius Society and many others. Our main partner is the English Chamber Orchestra with its Principal Conductor, Ralf Gothóni, who has also been actively involved in the development of this festival.
As the project proceeded, one piece led quite naturally to another and the result is a versatile programme with high quality composers and performers. Each concert includes at least one unique element and I believe all of us will come to remember Sibelius & Beyond as an unforgettable experience.
The aim of Sibelius & Beyond is both to commemorate the composer and to explore the music of other Finns who are often not as much heard outside Finland as they deserve, whether in chamber music, symphony or song.

As the festival’s Artistic Director Seppo Kimanen knows well, there has been a tendency to overlook Crusell, Toivo Kuula and the Merikantos in favour of the great man.  These composers, together with their successors have been highly influential and form an important part of Finland’s musical heritage.  In what is an ambitious and unique programme of music during the autumn of 2007 – ambitious in its depth and breadth and unique in its size and coverage – it is hoped that this will be rectified and that interest in Finnish music will awaken anew.

This project could not have come about without the enthusiasm of Ambassador Jaakko Laajava and the team at the Finnish Institute in London, as well as the patronage of the Finland-loving Lord Mayor of the City of London, John Stuttard.  The festival has also had major support from companies and individuals in London and Finland and invaluable practical help from the English Chamber Orchestra who are all warmly thanked.

The project itself marks the 50th anniversary of Sibelius’ death in 1957.  It will not be the last or even, I hope, the most definitive Finnish music festival to take place but we hope it will be remembered as one which starts the re-exploration.

Seppo Kimanen, Artistic Director
Director, The Finnish Institute in London
Cello, Jean Sibelius String Quartet         
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Roger Gifford, Chairman
Chairman, English Chamber Orchestra and Music Society
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