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 Label Catalog #
    2018 Decca / Deutsche Grammophon 4798418
    2018 Signum Classics SIGCD 548
    2018 Linn Records CKR 462
    2018 Oehms Classics OC 457
    2017 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 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
    2012 Decca 4783696
    2012 Erato 2564662795
    2012 Warner Classics
    2012 BIS BISSACD 1986
    2012 Alto 1189
    2012 Deutsche Grammophon / Universal Distribution
    2012 Deutsche Grammophon 4783373
    2012 Melodiya MYD 1001669
    2011 Deutsche Grammophon 4779449
    2011 Deutsche Grammophon
    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 4777447
    2007 Deutsche Grammophon
    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 Music Distribution 41441
    2006 EMI Classics
    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 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 80585
    2002 Telarc Distribution 60585
    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 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 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
    Pro-Arte Records 320
    Teldec
    Rca Red Seal 7919
    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
    ABC Classics 4802842
    ABC Classics 4802832
    Dell'Arte 9019
    Grammofono 2000 78614
    Grammofono 2000 78001
    History 204576