Jean Sibelius

Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op. 43

    Description by Brian Wise

    The genesis of the Second Symphony can be traced to Sibelius' trip to Italy in early 1901. The trip came about at the suggestion of his friend, the amateur musician Axel Carpelan, and it was there that he began contemplating several ambitious projects, including a four-movement tone poem based on the Don Juan story and a setting of Dante's Divina Commedia. While none of these plans ever came to fruition, some of the ideas sketched during this trip did find their way into the second movement of this symphony. Carpelan was also instrumental in raising money to allow Sibelius to relinquish his work at the Helsinki Conservatoire and devote himself to the composition of the Second Symphony. Despite his friend's help, Sibelius' return to Finland for the summer and autumn was not accompanied by any great burst of inspiration, and extensive revisions delayed the first performance, first to January 1902 and then to March 1903. But from then on, the symphony enjoyed unparalleled success in Finland and eventually led to the major breakthrough in Germany that was so craved by Scandinavian composers of this era (one which Nielsen, for instance, never achieved). The Second Symphony has retained an extraordinary popularity for its individualistic tonal language, dark wind coloring, muted string writing, simple folk-like themes, and distinctly "national" flavor that are all Sibelian to the core.

    While the opening mood is pastoral, it leads to an air of instability, in which small, short gestures seem to arise at random and then trail off. Yet there is a subtle coherence to the work that counters its seemingly shapeless quality. All of the material of the first movement emerges from either the two repeated-note subjects heard in the strings and winds at the opening, or from a brooding idea first presented in the winds and brass.

    Unlike the first movement, in which the gentleness of the introduction is recaptured at the conclusion, the second movement is full of turbulence and ends without consolation. Two competing subjects seem to engage in a battle: First, a dirge-like bassoon melody in D minor, marked "lugubrious," builds to a towering culmination in winds and brass; then an ethereal, ruminative theme is played by divided strings in the key of F sharp major. The energetic scherzo, with its machine-gun figures in the strings, is built from a fragment of greatest simplicity: a repeated B flat followed by a turn around that note.

    Following the precedent of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, the Scherzo is linked directly to the finale through a grand rhetorical bridge passage. The symphony at last achieves a flowing D major melodic line that heroically shakes off the D minor preparation, in the best sense of the Romantic tradition. Also like Beethoven, Sibelius brings back the transitional material a second time so that the victory of the major key can be savored anew, after which he concludes the work with a hymn-like peroration. That said, the Second Symphony marks the end of Sibelius' early Romantic period that paid homage to his predecessors. In subsequent works, his interest rested more in pursing new formal methods based on fragmentation and recombination.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Allegretto
    2. Tempo andante, ma rubato
    3. Vivacissimo
    4. Finale. Allegro moderato

    Appears On

    Year Title / Performer Label / Catalog # AllMusic Rating
    2020
    Berliner Philharmoniker
    BPHR 150072
    2020
    Alpha
    ALPHA 574
    2019
    RCA Red Seal
    19075924512
    2019
    RCA Red Seal
    G0100040237083
    2019
    Warner Classics
    2018
    Decca / Deutsche Grammophon
    4798418
    2018
    Signum Classics
    SIGCD 548
    2018
    Linn Records
    CKR 462
    2018
    Oehms Classics
    OC 457
    2017
    Various Artists
    ICA Classics
    ICAB 5141
    2017
    ABC Classics
    2017
    Warner Classics
    9029586915
    2017
    ABC / ABC Classics
    2017
    Datum
    DAT 12306
    2016
    Decca / Philips
    4788977
    2016
    BR Klassik
    900144
    2016
    LSO Live
    LSO 0675
    2016
    Praga / Praga Digitals
    PRD 250354
    2016
    ABC Classics
    4812521
    2016
    Deutsche Grammophon
    4795553
    2015
    Warner Classics
    2564605317
    2015
    Testament
    SBT2 1503
    2015
    Deutsche Grammophon
    B002362202
    2015
    Linn Records
    CKD 462
    2015
    Warner Classics
    2564619878
    2015
    BIS
    BIS 2076
    2015
    Sony Classical
    88875026142
    2015
    Warner Classics
    552758
    2014
    Deutsche Grammophon
    2014
    Warner Classics
    2564633619
    2014
    Chandos
    CHAN 108093
    2014
    Warner Classics
    545085
    2014
    Hi-Q Records
    26
    2014
    Ondine
    ODE 12652D
    2014
    RCA Red Seal
    88843006072
    2013
    Entertainment Group
    13809
    2013
    Decca
    4785437
    2013
    ICA Classics
    ICAC 5096
    2013
    EMI Classics / Warner Classics
    5099997360
    2013
    EMI Classics
    2013
    EMI Classics / Warner Classics
    5099998470
    2013
    Brilliant Classics
    9439
    2013
    Finlandia
    530101
    2013
    Hallé
    CDHLL 7516
    2013
    Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler
    PH 13032
    2013
    Decca
    4785093
    2013
    Deutsche Grammophon
    2012
    Decca
    4783696
    2012
    Decca
    2012
    Erato
    2564662795
    2012
    Warner Classics
    2012
    BIS
    BISSACD 1986
    2012
    Alto
    1189
    2012
    Deutsche Grammophon
    4783373
    2012
    Deutsche Grammophon / Universal Distribution
    2012
    Melodiya
    MYD 1001669
    2011
    Deutsche Grammophon
    2011
    Deutsche Grammophon
    4779449
    2011
    Alto / Musical Concepts
    132
    2011
    Ondine
    ODE 11792
    2011
    Royal Philharmonic Masterworks
    RPM 28920
    2011
    Collins Classics
    RET0003
    2011
    Naxos
    8.572704
    2011
    BIS
    1933/35
    2010
    Sony Classical
    8869768365
    2010
    ABC Classics
    4763943
    2010
    Decca
    2010
    Denon Records
    2010
    Denon Records
    2010
    Decca
    2010
    ABC Classics
    4763945
    2010
    Exton
    292
    2009
    EMI Classics
    2009
    EMI Classics / Warner Classics
    5099969718
    2009
    LSO Live
    191
    2009
    Denon Records
    2009
    Document / Documents
    224042
    2008
    Dutton Vocalion
    CDBP9788
    2008
    Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler
    8040
    2008
    Brilliant Classics
    8818
    2008
    Brilliant Classics
    8867
    2008
    Testament
    1418
    2008
    EMI Classics / Warner Classics
    5099951203
    2007
    Decca
    4758592
    2007
    Decca
    2007
    EMI Classics / Warner Classics
    5099950075
    2007
    Deutsche Grammophon
    2007
    Deutsche Grammophon
    4777447
    2007
    LSO Live
    605
    2007
    LSO Live
    105
    2007
    ABC Classics
    4766167
    2007
    Deutsche Grammophon
    000956502
    2007
    Ondine
    1115
    2006
    Edel Classics
    2342
    2006
    Ondine
    1075
    2006
    EMI Music Distribution / Warner Classics
    7243476963
    2006
    Erato
    2006
    RCO Live
    05005
    2006
    EMI Classics
    2006
    EMI Music Distribution
    41441
    2006
    EMI Classics
    2006
    Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler
    5049
    2006
    Decca
    000689202
    2006
    BIS
    1697/1700
    2005
    RCO Live
    05001
    2005
    Decca
    4756780
    2005
    Deutsche Grammophon
    000424902
    2005
    Cala Records
    541
    2005
    Finlandia
    2005
    EMI Classics
    2005
    EMI Classics
    2005
    EMI Music Distribution
    76882
    2005
    London Philharmonic Orchestra / LPO
    LPO0005
    2005
    EMI Classics
    2005
    Deutsche Grammophon
    000531936
    2004
    Music & Arts
    1146
    2004
    BIS
    1496/8
    2004
    Artone
    222344
    2004
    Deutsche Grammophon
    000218302
    2004
    Universal Classics
    000173702
    2004
    Silverline Classics
    288255
    2004
    BBC Legends
    41542
    2004
    Delos
    3334
    2004
    Avid
    584
    2004
    RCA Victor
    55706
    2004
    BMG International / RCA Red Seal
    188685
    2003
    Past Perfect
    205633
    2003
    Deutsche Grammophon
    474 353-2
    2003
    Artemis Classics
    1201
    2003
    Erato
    4602942
    2003
    EMI Classics
    2003
    Ondine
    1026
    2003
    EMI Music Distribution
    575673
    2003
    EMI Classics
    2003
    BBC Legends / BBC Music
    41152
    2003
    Sony Music Distribution
    87329
    2003
    Decca
    000121902
    2002
    Dutton Laboratories
    CDBP9733
    2002
    Brilliant
    6328
    2002
    Sony Classical
    87882
    2002
    Brilliant Classics
    6899
    2002
    Naxos
    505179
    2002
    Telarc Distribution
    60585
    2002
    Telarc Distribution
    80585
    2001
    Deutsche Grammophon
    469069
    2001
    Chesky Records
    903
    2001
    Erato
    3857762
    2001
    Sony Classical
    89739
    2001
    Philips
    464682
    2001
    Classica d'Oro
    1035
    2001
    BIS
    1286/8
    2001
    History
    205223
    2001
    History
    204573
    2000
    Various Artists
    Deutsche Grammophon
    469202
    2000
    EMI Music Distribution / Warner Classics
    7243567299
    2000
    BIS
    862
    2000
    EMI Music Distribution
    66599
    2000
    Dutton Vocalion
    1018
    2000
    Intersound
    2892
    2000
    Nimbus
    7716
    2000
    Deutsche Grammophon
    469647
    2000
    Sony Music Distribution
    61848
    1999
    Dutton Laboratories
    7033
    1999
    Denon Records
    17033
    1999
    Naxos
    554266
    1999
    Biddulph Recordings
    55
    1999
    Philips
    442389
    1999
    EMI Music Distribution / Warner Classics
    7243573561
    1999
    Warner Classics
    1998
    Lys
    138
    1998
    Point Classics
    2672192
    1998
    D Classics
    HR703862
    1998
    London
    455402
    1998
    Finlandia
    23388
    1998
    Dutton Laboratories
    5016
    1998
    Columbia River Entertainment Group
    1169
    1997
    Various Artists
    Sony Classical
    63260
    1996
    Finlandia
    95882
    1996
    Berlin Classics
    0092732
    1996
    Chandos
    7054
    1996
    Seraphim UK
    69134
    1995
    RCA
    68218
    1995
    Philips
    446157
    1995
    EMI Music Distribution
    568643-2
    1995
    Sony Music Distribution
    53268
    1994
    Sony Music Distribution
    53509
    1994
    Berlin Classics
    0020592
    1994
    Tring
    013
    1994
    Deutsche Grammophon
    437828
    1994
    BIS
    252
    1994
    RCA
    902661856
    1994
    BIS
    622
    1993
    London
    430737
    1993
    London
    436566
    1993
    Naxos
    504002
    1993
    Pearl
    9408
    1993
    EMI Music Distribution
    63399
    1993
    EMI Music Distribution
    54804
    1993
    IMP Classics
    927
    1993
    Sony Music Distribution
    SM2K-47619
    1992
    Mercury
    434317
    1992
    Chandos
    6556
    1992
    Chandos
    6559
    1992
    Decca
    1991
    EMI Music Distribution
    764120-2
    1991
    Naxos
    550198
    1991
    EMI Music Distribution
    764118-2
    1991
    London
    430778
    1990
    Telarc Distribution
    80095
    1990
    Deutsche Grammophon
    431044
    1990
    Chesky Records
    3
    1987
    Deutsche Grammophon
    419772
    EMI Music Distribution
    67726
    Datum
    12306
    RCA
    60294
    History
    205228
    Philharmonia of the Nations
    45
    Forlane
    026
    CBS Records
    38477
    Seraphim UK
    69032
    Chandos
    9020
    RCA
    61701
    Past Perfect
    205638
    Decca
    4757798
    Koch
    7131
    D Classics
    703882
    RCA
    61856
    Stradivari
    6041
    Davidoff Classic
    Brilliant
    6328/2
    Vanguard Classics
    32
    Deutsche Grammophon
    469072
    Finlandia
    88434
    Erato
    Rca Red Seal
    7919
    Pro-Arte Records
    320
    Teldec
    Supraphon
    111268
    MCA
    25884
    BBC Music Magazine
    34D
    Forlane
    26
    Collins Records
    1105
    Digital Masterworks
    71853
    RCA
    60489
    Enterprise
    4103
    Finlandia
    99963
    EMI Music Distribution
    574485-2
    Vanguard
    3133
    Arlecchino
    108
    Various Artists
    ABC Classics
    4802842
    ABC Classics
    4802832
    Dell'Arte
    9019
    Grammofono 2000
    78614
    Grammofono 2000
    78001
    History
    204576