Jean Sibelius

En Saga, tone poem for orchestra, Op. 9

    Description by Rovi Staff

    This is one of Sibelius' earliest orchestral works, and it brims with youthful energy. It is also a highly atmospheric work, clearly evocative of the composer's beloved Finland -- its people, proud history, countryside and landscapes. The title (Swedish, rather than Finnish, meaning "A Fairy Tale") suggests it is a programmatic work, and indeed there does seem to be a musical "story" present; the composer, however, never identified any specific extra-musical inspiration.

    Sibelius wrote the work at the suggestion of conductor Robert Kajanus, who wanted a composition that would have wide appeal; in completing it Sibelius drew on themes from an unperformed and unpublished octet for strings and winds he had written in Berlin. At its February 16, 1893, premiere in Helsinki (led by the composer), En Saga was not a success, suffering as it did from a lack of formal organization. Sibelius' 1902 revision, however -- coming, perhaps not insignificantly, directly after the composition of his Symphony No. 2 -- overcame these difficulties, and is now regarded as one of his finest orchestral works.

    The work begins mysteriously, the music seeming to awaken and gather momentum, as strings swirl and woodwinds bark and chirp. This gives rise to a lively rhythmic theme of characteristically Sibelian character; there is something both mournful and proud in the melody -- simple, yet striking. This theme is the first of three that, by development and interaction, become the de facto "characters" in this musical tale; they each struggle to maintain hold on the music as becomes more conflicted, eventually rising to a violent climax. Eventually, the musical conflict is resolved, and only the solo clarinet -- accompanied by gentle strings -- is left to witness the end.

    Throughout En Saga Sibelius puts the woodwinds front and center, often using their dissonant punctuations to herald the beginning of a new section or idea. The color and character of these woodwind passages are perhaps the most identifiably Scandinavian musical feature of the score. While there are influences here of Rimsky-Korsakov and other Russian composers, En Saga must be regarded as one of the composer's most individual and satisfying early works. A typical performance lasts from about 17 to 20 minutes.

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2016 Hallé HLL 7543
    2015 Warner Classics 2564605317
    2015 DG Deutsche Grammophon B002362202
    2014 Warner Classics 2564633619
    2014 RCA Red Seal 88843006072
    2013 Decca 4785437
    2013 Brilliant Classics 9439
    2013 Fazer / Finlandia
    2013 Newton Classics 8802196
    2013 Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler PH 13032
    2012 Decca 4783696
    2011 Decca
    2011 Pilfink Records JJVCD 69
    2011 Brilliant Classics 9212
    2011 RPO RPM28910
    2010 Sony Classical 8869768975
    2010 Eloquence 4803297
    2008 EMI Classics 16091
    2008 Relief 991052
    2008 PentaTone Classics 5186177
    2008 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099951203
    2007 Melodiya MELCD 1001109
    2007 LPO 97
    2007 Berlin Classics 0149152
    2007 EMI Classics 97689
    2007 DG Deutsche Grammophon 000956502
    2007 BIS 1900
    2006 RCO / RCO Live 06004
    2006 Edel Classics 2342
    2006 EMI Classics
    2006 EMI Music Distribution 41441
    2006 EMI Classics
    2006 Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler 5049
    2006 BIS 1697/1700
    2006 Naxos 8 552135/6
    2005 EMI Music Distribution 76847
    2005 EMI Classics
    2005 EMI Music Distribution 476846
    2005 Chandos 24119
    2005 DG Deutsche Grammophon 000459702
    2005 BIS 1557/58
    2004 RCA Victor 55706
    2004 EMI Classics 85785
    2004 BMG International / RCA Red Seal 188685
    2003 Naxos Historical 8110867
    2003 Decca 000121902
    2002 DG Deutsche Grammophon 471 294-2GB5
    2002 Brilliant 6328
    2002 Sony Classical 87882
    2002 Brilliant Classics 6899
    2002 BIS 1225
    2002 Naxos 8 555299
    2002 EMI Music Distribution 575 566-2
    2002 EMI Music Distribution 567717
    2002 History 205186
    2001 Ondine ODE992-2
    2000 Platinum Disc / Platinum Entertainment 1724
    2000 Intersound 2891
    2000 DG Deutsche Grammophon 457654
    2000 Ondine ODE9532
    2000 Nimbus 7716
    2000 D Classics 70670
    1999 Chandos 6524
    1999 Platinum Disc / Platinum Entertainment 1980
    1999 Belart/Karussell 450018
    1998 D Classics HR703862
    1998 London 455 405-2DF2
    1998 Chandos 7075
    1998 Omega Music Poland 1027
    1998 New York Philharmonic 9701
    1997 London 452576
    1997 Finlandia 15242
    1996 Ondine ODE8712
    1996 EMI Music Distribution 68960
    1996 Berlin Classics 0092672
    1996 Seraphim UK 69134
    1995 Sony Music Distribution 64578
    1995 Curb 78006
    1995 IMP Classics 2026
    1995 EMI Music Distribution CD-CFPSD4763
    1994 Berlin Classics 0020592
    1994 Naxos 550200
    1994 Sony Music Distribution 53272
    1994 Music & Arts CD-799
    1993 Naxos 504002
    1993 Telarc Distribution CD80320
    1993 Music & Arts CD-755
    1992 BIS 295
    1992 Sony Music Distribution 48067
    1992 Sony Classical Essential Classics 48271
    1992 EMI Music Distribution 64331
    1988 London 417762
    1986 Chandos 8395
    DG Deutsche Grammophon 427783
    Seven Seas 2119
    Ondine 767
    Beulah 5PD8
    D Classics 703912
    Artists 55
    EMI Classics 14115
    Brilliant 6328/5
    IMP Classics 1003
    EMI Music Distribution 69773
    Chandos 8965
    BBC Music Magazine 283
    RCA Victor Red Seal 68312
    Collins Records 1093
    Koch 7061
    Arkadia 616
    EMI Music Distribution 574485-2
    LPO 21
    Grammofono 2000 78558
    New York Philharmonic 9702/03
    Dell'Arte 9024
    History 205191