Lovely black eyes

23 June 2015 | This 'n' that

Jean Sibelius

Agony uncle?: Jean Sibelius during his travels in Germany, in 1889

Jean Sibelius on how to keep your mojo

The main music critic of Päivälehti (‘The daily newspaper’) in the 1890s was the celebrated composer Oskar Merikanto, writes Vesa Sirén in Päivälehti’s successor, Helsingin Sanomat. Often, but not always, Merikanto praised first performances of works by the yet more stellar Jean Sibelius.

June 1895, however, saw the publication of Merikanto’s I sommarkväll (‘Waltz for a summer’s night’). ‘Tomorrow’s Päivälehti should have a review by Sibelius!’ wrote an excited Merikanto.

The short review duly appeared the following day, attributed not directly to Sibelius but to ‘a certain prominent composer’. In it, Sibelius hints that its uses may be more than strictly musical:

This waltz is extraordinarily pleasant and clever in both form and content. The introduction immediately reveals the composer’s intentions. This waltz contains an extraordinary passion. It is like our sky, which seems so grey, but which reflects that grey light that is born in black eyes when one is with one’s beloved. Everyone should buy it, for it is the shortest route to acceptance by one’s beloved and to one’s true desires.

Anyone for a waltz?

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