Festival 14-26 April 2015

2015 will see the 150 years anniversary of two grand composers of symphonic music: Jean Sibelius and Carl Nielsen. The Stockholm Concert Hall will celebrate by launching the world’s largest Sibelius/Nielsen festival!
With the resident orchestra, the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra and its Chief Conductor Sakari Oramo, performing in three landmark concerts (opening, middle concert and grand finale) and with guest orchestras from Sweden, Finland and Denmark performing another nine concerts, this will be a grand symphonic feast to celebrate both the protagonists.
There will be daily concerts, inspiring lectures and exhibitions about both composers. Welcome to symphonic portraits of two Nordic champions!

Old certainties about music were overturned during the lifetimes of Jean Sibelius and Carl Nielsen. Their professional and personal lives were affected by seismic changes that delivered everything from sound recording to new nations. The symphony, a traditional genre under attack from musical modernists, supplied the secure ground for both composers artistic development. It offered Sibelius a logical structure within which to explore his imagination’s flow; Nielsen, meanwhile, directed his lifelong passion for the ‘simple original’ to the symphonic form. The Sibelius/Nielsen-festival reveals the influences behind their work and offers a unique chance to hear the composer's complete symphonies presented in an orchestral context.


Tuesday 14 April 6pm


Festival introductions presented by


Two experts on the life and works of Sibelius and Nielsen set the scene for the great celebration of both composers’ 150th anniversary year. John Fellow (speakes in english), born in Odense, where Nielsen served as a military musician, shares his research into the influences that helped Nielsen develop a unique voice among Danish composers. Sibelius’ complex character and compelling compositions will be discussed by Ilkka Oramo (speaks in swedish), Professor of Music Theory at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki and a leading authority on the music of his fellow Finn. Musical interludes will be presented by Swedish leading violinist Cecilia Zilliacus, Bengt Forsberg, acclaimed worldwide for his work as piano accompanist and chamber musician, and the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Wind Quintet.

Wednesday 15 April 7pm



Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 6 "Pathétique"
Sibelius Symphony No. 1

Tchaikovsky was among the leading contemporary composers of Sibelius’ youth, championed around the world by many great performers. His Sixth Symphony, completed just months before his death in 1893, projects powerful emotional extremes, from triumph to tragedy, defiance to despair. Tchaikovsky’s enigmatic score extends far beyond aspects of autobiography to reveal profound insights into the human condition. The Russian composer’s creative energy, mastery of rich orchestration, and expressive freedom clearly influenced young Sibelius. His First Symphony, premiered in 1899 to public and critical acclaim, pays homage to Tchaikovsky above all in its opening clarinet solo and intense finale. “There is much in that man that I recognise in myself,” Sibelius wrote to his brother. For all that, it is the originality of Sibelius’ invention that grabs and holds our attention.

Thursday 16 April 7pm



Brahms Symphony No. 4
Nielsen Symphony No. 1

Carl Nielsen’s youthful passions powerfully embraced the music of Brahms and Beethoven. His own First Symphony, written in the early 1890s, connects with the Danish composer’s boyhood ambition to ‘make big music’. The work draws inspiration from the way Brahms developed bold melodic themes across the broad span of an entire movement or piece. It also revealed Nielsen’s desire to break free from tradition and find his own voice. One early critic wrote that the First Symphony sounded like the work of ‘a child playing with dynamite’, an ideal description of the score’s energy and terrific sense of adventure. Brahms harnessed his imagination to create a work of overwhelming power with his Fourth Symphony, completed in 1885 and swiftly introduced into the mainstream of orchestral repertoire. The confidence and focus of Brahms’s final symphony are richly echoed in Nielsen’s first.

Friday 17 April 7pm



Mendelssohn-Bartholdy Symphony No. 4 "Italian Symphony"
Sibelius Symphony No. 2

‘You remember the important role that Italy played in Tchaikovsky’s development,’ wrote Baron Axel Carpelan to his friend Sibelius. The suggestion of an Italian tour took hold and directed the composer to travel south in 1901. He began sketching what became his Second Symphony in Italy and completed the work on his return home. The score among many fine things contains fleeting references to Mendelssohn-Bartholdy’s ‘Italian’ Symphony, another masterwork inspired by the sights and sounds which its composer experienced during his own grand tour of Italy in 1829. The ‘Italian’ Symphony, marked by its warmth and unity, proved a popular hit following its London premiere and became established in the international repertoire. Strong Mediterranean flavours infuse Sibelius’ life-enhancing Second Symphony, exquisitely blended with sounds drawn deep from within the composer’s Nordic soul.

Saturday 18 April 3pm



Ives Symphony No. 2
Nielsen Symphony No. 2 "The Four Temperaments"

March tunes and the music of the people form the bridge between two works written in the early 1900s. They both share qualities of originality and daring, boldly stated from their opening to closing seconds. Charles Ives, who spent much of his adult life working in the insurance industry, turned to the music of his childhood and deliberately wove American hymns, popular tunes and military marches into the fabric of his Second Symphony. Nielsen’s Second Symphony, which he conducted for the first time in 1902, explores what the composer aptly described as ‘the concept of the four human characters types’, moving from the Impetuous to the Indolent before dwelling on the Melancholy and closing with a heart-warming survey of the Cheerful or Naïve.

Sunday 19 April 3pm


ELIN ROMBO soprano

Mahler Symphony No. 4
Sibelius Symphony No. 3

Sibelius met Mahler in Helsinki soon after the premiere of the Finnish composer’s Third Symphony. The two men liked each other but clashed over the nature of the symphony. Sibelius spoke of the genre’s logic and severity of form. ‘No!’, said Mahler. ‘The symphony must be like the world. It must be all-embracing.’ Concerns about form and thematic development were uppermost in Sibelius’ mind when writing his Third Symphony (1904-07). He achieved his goal with great economy while subverting Classical expectations, creating a three-movement work intricate in detail yet restrained in expression. The score’s poise, symbolised by the simple close of its first movement, contrasts with the Romantic spirit of Mahler’s Fourth Symphony (1899-1900).

Monday 20 April 6pm



Beethoven Symphony No. 3 "Eroica"
Nielsen Symphony No. 3 "Sinfonia espansiva"

In February 1909 Nielsen wrote to Sibelius praising the ‘strange and unique power that radiates from your [Second Symphony]’. The Danish composer was particularly affected by the ‘grandeur and peace’ of his colleague’s work and absorbed much of it into his Third Symphony (1910-11). He also applied lessons learned from his deep study of Beethoven into the creation of his score. The ‘Sinfonia espansiva’, a title reflective of the broadening and deepening of human consciousness through work and wisdom, taps into the energy of Beethoven’s pioneering Third Symphony to create a compelling opening series of chords. Echoes of the ‘Eroica’ sound throughout Nielsen’s composition, which also harbours room for contemplation in its idyllic slow movement.

Tuesday 21 April 7pm



Sibelius Symphony No. 4
Nielsen Symphony No. 4 "The Inextinguishable"

Europe’s century of peace was shattered while Nielsen worked on his Fourth Symphony, victim of superpower politics, inflexible foreign policies and the catastrophic consequences of militarism. The First World War cast a long shadow over Denmark. Nielsen’s personal circumstances were also reduced by his marital breakdown and a creative crisis. His Fourth Symphony, performed and recorded more often than any other of the cycle, expresses the essence of ‘that which is inextinguishable’, the eternal life force of music itself, unleashed with searing force by the two sets of timpani in the work’s finale. Sibelius’ turbulent Fourth Symphony, completed in 1911, is marked by his fears of ill health and bitter experience of post-operative depression.

Wednesday 22 April 7pm



Stenhammar Symphony No. 2
Sibelius Symphony No. 5

When Wilhelm Stenhammar, composer and future Principal Conductor of the Stockholm Philharmonic Society (*today’s Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra), heard Sibelius’ Second Symphony he immediately shelved his own First Symphony. The inventive scope and formal strength of his friend’s work influenced Stenhammar’s Second Symphony, which he described as ‘sober and honest music free from frills’. Its bold themes were conceived in 1911 in Rome and refined in Gothenburg in 1915, making it contemporary with Nielsen’s Fourth and Sibelius’ Fifth. The latter also evolved over many years, during which the First World War raged to the south. Its near-mystical qualities were inspired by Finland’s untroubled forests and lakes and Sibelius’ conviction that he was writing for God’s orchestra in heaven.

Thursday 23 April 7pm



Atterberg Symphony No. 5 "Sinfonia funebre"
Nielsen Symphony No. 5

Kurt Atterberg’s cultural outlook, open to folksong and the strong currents of Swedish nationalism, filtered into several of his nine symphonies. He enjoyed enormous success in Germany, thanks not least to his ‘Sinfonia funebre’ of 1922. Nielsen’s Fifth Symphony, with its disruptive side-drum solo, primitive energy and opposing orchestral forces, provoked a public scandal when it was performed for the first time in Stockholm in 1924, comparable to that triggered in Paris just over a decade earlier by Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring! Kurt Atterberg dismissed the piece as ‘worthless’ in his review. Sibelius-Nielsen festival audiences can experience the romanticism of Atterberg’s music this evening and compare his work with Nielsen’s wild Fifth.


Friday 24 April 6pm



Vaughan Williams Symphony No. 5
Sibelius Symphony No. 6

Sibelius travelled to England in 1921 and met Ralph Vaughan Williams at a reception in London. The two men apparently struggled, according to the Englishman’s widow, to communicate in ‘inadequate French … though they were both full of goodwill’. Vaughan Williams originally dedicated his Fifth Symphony (1938-43), a work of quiet contemplation and inner calm, to ‘Jean Sibelius, whose great example is worthy of all imitation’. Sibelius heard the broadcast of the score’s Swedish premiere, given by the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic in 1943. ‘Civilised and humane!’, he wrote. ‘Williams gives me more than anyone could imagine.’ Sibelius’ Sixth Symphony (1923) creates a meditative soundscape from simple melodic material and captivating rhythmic repetitions.

Saturday 25 April 3pm



Walton Symphony No. 1
Sibelius Symphony No. 7

Innovative and inspired, symmetrical and balanced, Sibelius’ Seventh Symphony (1924) set the seal on the career of one of the greatest of all symphonists. The symphony was actually premiered by the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, conducted by Jean Sibelius himself. The work, originally titled Fantasia Sinfonia, is cast in a single continuous movement. Sibelius launches what was to be his last symphony with a majestic trombone theme that returns throughout the score. Expansive music and outbursts of fiery exuberance often appear together in the work, testimony to its composer’s sure command of symphonic invention. William Walton’s First Symphony (1934) owes a clear debt to the creative legacy of Sibelius and his famous comparison of the symphony with a river. Walton’s ideas, like those of Sibelius’ Seventh Symphony, here flow with unstoppable force.

Sunday 26 April 3pm



Shostakovich Symphony No. 15
Nielsen Symphony No. 6 "Sinfonia semplice"

Dark shades of death pass over both works in this evening’s programme. Nielsen’s Sixth Symphony (1924-5) began as the composer’s attempt to write a work different from its predecessors, ‘gliding more amiably’, as he put it. Its creative course, however, was pushed into choppy waters by Nielsen’s heart disease and professional anxieties. Although the piece is ‘simple’ in its four-movement plan and orchestration, its emotional world and psychological outlook are profoundly complex, especially so in its savage second movement and introspective third. Soon after completing his Fifteenth Symphony (1971), Shostakovich suffered a second heart attack. Like Nielsen, his final symphony strips away noble sentiments to probe our natural fear of death. 


Each of the Sibelius/Nielsen festival’s twelve concerts is prefaced by an introduction presented by Mats Engström, Director of Programme and curator of the festival, in company with invited guests. Both Illka Oramo, Emeritus Professor of Music at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, and John Fellow, Editor of the multi-volume collection of Nielsen’s correspondence, are on the guest-list for some of the conversations. Other participants will be the RSPO’s Chief Conductor, Sakari Oramo, Ida-Maria Vorre of the Odense Carl Nielsen Museum and several Swedish musicians and composers. Introductions are held in Swedish and require a special ticket (50 SEK).

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Learn more about the life and work of Sibelius and Nielsen in two fascinating exhibitions, offered free to visitors during the Sibelius/Nielsen festival. Odense City Museum's international travelling exhibition about Carl Nielsen is a rich aesthetic and sensory experience through music, pictures and sound. The Finnish Embassy contributes with a unique Sibelius exhibition which, among other things, features an imaginary visit to Sibelius' home. Thanks to its close association with both Sibelius and Nielsen, the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic owns a unique archive of documents, photographs, letters and other memorabilia relating to both men, which will also be on display.
Opening hours: Weekdays 4.00-6.00 pm, Sat & Sun 12.00-2.00 pm, and in connection with the concerts. Admission free!

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Programme Book

The Stockholm Concert Hall will publish a substantial programme book to enhance the listening experience for Sibelius/Nielsen festival-goers. The fully illustrated volume includes essays and extensive work commentaries by the Danish author and Carl Nielsen expert John Fellow and the Finnish musicologist and Sibelius specialist, Professor Ilkka Oramo. It also features introductions by the RSPO’s Director of Programme, Mats Engstrom, complete with details of the musical connections linking the symphonies to be performed in each concert. The book also recalls Sibelius’ and Nielsen’s guest conducting visits to Stockholm, an important chapter in the RSPO’s artistic development. Price 195 SEK. The book includes texts in both Swedish and English.

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Inquiries: biljett@konserthuset.se

+46 8 50 66 77 88
Monday-Friday 11am-6pm
Saturday 11am-3pm

Box Office
Corner of Sveavägen/Kungsgatan
Monday-Friday 11am-6pm
Saturday 11am-3pm
On day of concert, minimum 2 hours before the concert begins.

Payment by VISA, Mastercard, American Express & Diners Club Card.

Festival packages

Experience a unique classical music festival! With any of our festival packages, you will also take advantage of a generous discount on your tickets.

Festival Four: 4-7 concerts of your choice and get 20 % discount.
Festival Eight: 8-11 concerts of your choice and get 25 % discount.
Festival Twelve: All 12 concerts and get 30 % discount.

Other available discounts: 
Senior citiziens, age 65 +: 10 % off full ticket price. 
Students, valid student ID required: 10 % off full ticket price. 
Up to 26 years: 50 % off full ticket price.




Jean Sibelius


Heavy drinking, cigar smoking and hard spending, Jean Sibelius lived life to the full before retiring from public life at his fame’s height. His music caught the nationalist mood of his fellow Finns long before the country declared its independence from Russia in 1917. It also drew from Finland’s natural landscape and rich stock of folk legends. He became and remains a Finnish hero, the man whose tone poem Finlandia sounds a rallying call at times of national crisis and celebration. Sibelius was among the first modern classical composers to gain popularity thanks to recordings and radio broadcasts. Above all, he carried the tradition of writing symphonies well into the twentieth century with works of great originality and invention.

Sibelius was born in Hämeenlinna on 8 December 1865. His father, a military physician, died a few years later, tipping the family into poverty. Young Sibelius’ uncle encouraged the boy’s love for music, which led to violin lessons from the local bandmaster. Sibelius developed his skills as violinist and composer at the newly opened Helsinki Music Institute. Further studies in Berlin and Vienna paved the way to his breakthrough compositions, the symphonic poem Kullervo and Karelia among them. He established a global reputation as Finland’s representative composer in the early 1900s before cultivating a more international language. Episodes of drunkenness, disillusion and depression nudged Sibelius into early retirement, although not before the completion of such masterworks as the Seventh Symphony and Tapiola.


Carl Nielsen


Carl Nielsen was born on 9 June 1865 and raised on the idyllic island of Funen as the seventh of twelve children. Although from a humble family, his parents encouraged young Carl to study violin and join a local amateur orchestra. The composer’s childhood memories, recalled in his delightful autobiography, contain strong impressions of nature and human psychology that shaped his lifelong artistic creed and desire to present authentic emotions in his works. Tuneful music was part of Nielsen’s upbringing, absorbed in the form of Viennese Classics, folksongs and the military marches he learned as a teenaged bandsman in Odense. He was schooled in German Romanticism as a student at the Copenhagen Conservatory, but soon rejected the expressive extremes of Wagner’s music in favour of the ‘healthy’ logic of works by Dvořák and Brahms. His aesthetic outlook was also informed by his wife, the Danish sculptress Anne Marie Brodersen, despite their marriage’s tempestuous.

Nielsen’s apprentice years included work as a violinist at Denmark’s Royal Theatre and periods of study abroad. In 1905 he was able to commit to composing full time, an arrangement occasionally interrupted to accommodate guest conducting dates and an unhappy stint as second kapelmester at the Royal Theatre. His symphonies, instrumental concertos and stage works defied the fashion in Danish music for smooth and safe Romanticism. ‘I wanted stronger rhythms and more advanced harmony,’ Nielsen explained, an ambition that he realised most strikingly in his six symphonies.