Sibelius’s compositions are among the greatest and most universally appreciated achievements of western music. While displaying a range of stylistic influences, they are nevertheless highly original and distinctive, and are rooted in a passion for nature and a sense of the endurance of the human spirit.
Sibelius was also one of the most place-specific of composers. His main literary influences were Nordic, particularly the Kalevala, the great Finnish national epic, and the landscapes which moved him so intensely are the forests and lakes of central Finland. He lived through and gave expression to the period of National Romanticism when Finland rebelled against Russian political and cultural dominance and emerged as an independent nation in 1917.
The twentieth year of the International Sibelius Festival presents a number of symphonies interspersed with other orchestral, chamber and choral music. The Lahti Symphony Orchestra, directed by Dima Slobodeniouk, are joined by the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra, themselves conducted by Sibelius in 1924 for the world première of Symphony No. 7. They perform the same symphony nearly 100 years on, in addition to Symphonies 5 and 6.
Other highlights include a programme featuring Finnish soprano Karita Mattila and the folk-inspired En saga, a recital with exciting young cellist Jonathan Roozeman, and a performance of Kullervo with Sibelius Academy graduate and baritone, Tommi Hakala.
The small lakeside city of Lahti has hosted the festival annually since 2000 with performances taking place in the stunning timber concert hall, renowned for both design and acoustics. Our four nights there are preceded by a night in Helsinki, staying at Sibelius’s preferred Hotel Kamp, in order to set the National Romantic scene.
London to Helsinki. Fly at c. 10.15am from London Heathrow to Helsinki (Finnair). Begin with a walk through the Neo-Classical heart of the city: the Esplanade, Senate Square, cathedral and Market Square.
Helsinki, Lahti. Lecture on the evening performance. The morning walk includes the Art Nouveau railway station by Eliel Saarinen and the Ateneum, Finland’s foremost art museum, with a collection of brilliant National Romantic pictures. Afternoon drive to Lahti, a pleasant if unspectacular town with attractive waterfront and adjoining parkland. Time to settle into the hotel before the evening performance. Concert at the Sibelius Hall with the Lahti Symphony Orchestra, Dima Slobodeniouk (conductor), Tuuli Takala (soprano), Tommi Hakala (baritone), The Polytech Choir: Have You Courage?; The Rapids-Shooter’s Brides; The Origin of Fire; Kullervo.
Hämeenlinna, Lahti. Drive through birch forests to Hämeenlinna, one of the oldest settlements in Finland and birthplace of Sibelius. Visit the Sibelius Museum in the composer’s childhood home and the 13th-century Häme Castle. Return to Lahti for a lecture before an evening concert at the Sibelius Hall with the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra, Thomas Dausgaard (conductor): Symphony Nos 5, 6 & 7.
Lahti. After a lecture, a free morning in Lahti before an early afternoon recital at the Felix Krohn Hall with Ossi Tanner (piano) and Jonathan Roozeman (cello). In the afternoon a guided tour of the City Hall designed by Saarinen (1912). Evening concert with the Lahti Symphony Orchestra, Dima Slobodeniouk (conductor), Karita Mattila (soprano): The Bard; Arioso for soprano & string orchestra; Songs of Sibelius; Night Ride & Sunrise; En saga.
Lahti. Morning choral concert at the Sibelius Hall with the Dominante Choir. Afternoon visit to the Church of the Cross, the last work (1976) by the great Finnish architect Alvar Aalto. Continue to the Sibelius Hall for a private guided tour (subject to confirmation). Some free time in Lahti before a final dinner.
Lahti, Järvenpää. At Järvenpää visit Ainola, Sibelius’s lakeside home from 1903 until his death in 1957, unchanged and preserved as a museum; his grave is also here. Fly from Helsinki, arrive Heathrow c. 6.00pm.
Dr Stephen Darlington MBEDr Stephen Darlington is one of the country’s leading choral conductors. From 1985 to 2018 he was Director of Music at Christ Church, Oxford, establishing it as an acknowledged centre of academic musical excellence, and maintained the highest choral traditions of the Church of England in the Cathedral. An extensive discography, comprising over fifty CDs, includes several award-winning recordings. He was awarded an MBE in 2019.
Price – per person
Two sharing: £2,530 or £2,380 without flights. Single occupancy: £2,820 or £2,670 without flights.
Flights (economy class) with Finnair (aircraft: Airbus A350-900); private coach for airport transfers and excursions; boat trip; hotel accommodation as described below; breakfasts, 4 dinners with wine, water and coffee; all admissions; all tips to waiting staff and the driver; taxes; the services of the lecturer and tour manager and visits led by local guides.
Tickets (first category) for 5 concerts are included, costing c. £200.
Hotel Kämp, Helsinki: an elegant five-star hotel in the Art Deco style. Solo Sokos Hotel Lahden Seurahuone, Lahti: a modern 4-star in the commercial heart of town with bar and bistro opening onto the street and contemporary, if smallish, bedrooms (mostly with shower only). Single rooms throughout are doubles for sole use.
To be able to participate fully in the tour, some walking and standing in museums is required—average distance by coach per day: 69 miles.
Between 10 and 22 participants.
Before booking, please refer to the FCO website to ensure you are happy with the travel advice for the destination(s) you are visiting: www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
'Superb performances, unbelievably fine accoustics.'