Jean Sibelius (1865-1957), Finland’s foremost composer, had a major impact on its national identity and musical life. His symphonies are cornerstones of the orchestral repertoire, as are his tone poems based on Finnish myths and national themes.
The Karelia Suite had its origins in 1893, when Sibelius was asked by Helsinki University students to compose incidental music for a gala with historical pageants; these were based on historical events in Karelia province (the southwestern region of Finland next to Russia). His music for three of those pageants became the basis for the Karelia Suite.
The first movement, with its spirited march theme, depicts the gathering of taxes by a Lithuanian duke in the 14th century (!).
The second movement Ballade portrays a bard entertaining group of nobles in a medieval castle.
The jaunty Alla Marcia depicts the Swedish conquest of a Finnish town in the 16th century.
"Karelia" Suite, Op. 11
By Jean Sibelius
Composed in 1893