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Tomas Cohen Photography

New York Philharmonic performs Sibelius

New York Philharmonic
Orchestral Series
Friday, July 21, 2023 at 6pm Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater

Finnish guest conductor Hannu Lintu celebrates great composers from his homeland leading the Philharmonic in Sibelius’ Symphony No. 7 and Finlandia, as well as Kaija Saariaho’s Ciel d’hiver. Masterful violinist Stefan Jackiw also joins the program in Bruch’s rousing Scottish Fantasy.

The New York Philharmonic returns to Bravo! Vail for its annual summer residency, performing works both fresh and familiar with its signature brilliance and power.

All artists, programs, and pricing are subject to change.​

Program Details

Hannu Lintu, conductor
Stefan Jackiw, violin

SIBELIUS Finlandia
BRUCH Scottish Fantasy
KAIJA SAARIAHO Ciel D’hiver (Winter Sky)
SIBELIUS Symphony No. 7

Guest Artists

Hannu Lintu


Stefan Jackiw


Program Notes

Finlandia, Op. 26 (1899-1900)

(8 minutes)

JEAN SIBELIUS (1865-1957)

Finlandia, Op. 26 


For most of the 19th century, Finland operated as an autonomous grand duchy within the Russian Empire, but in 1899, Czar Nicholas II imposed an iron fist. That summer, the Russians closed one Finnish newspaper after another. In response, the Finns organized a public extravaganza, as a benefit for the Press Pension Fund, that included dramatic tableaux illustrating events in Finnish history. It was a cat-and-mouse game in which the Finns pushed their nationalist agenda while hiding behind the charitable goal of raising funds for aging journalists. Jean Sibelius composed music to accompany the performance in Helsinki. He provided an overture, pieces illustrating each of the five ensuing tableaux, background music to accompany the connecting spoken sections, and a finale titled “Finland Awakes!”

His contribution might easily have been consigned to the moldering mountains of occasional music for soon-forgotten events. But sensing its musical value, he refashioned the overture and the first five episodes into his Scènes historiques and revised the “Finland Awakes!” finale into his most enduringly popular composition, the tone poem Finlandia. When its powerful effect became clear, the Russians effectively banned its performance in Finland for a few years. Nonetheless, the piece and its patriotic subtext were an open secret, and as soon as it returned to the repertoire, Finns embraced it as an emblem of their aspirations for independence.


Scottish Fantasy for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 46 (1879-80)

(28 minutes)

MAX BRUCH (1838-1920)

Scottish Fantasy for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 46 
     Prelude: Grave—Adagio cantabile
     Andante sostenuto
     Finale: Allegro guerriero


Concertgoers encounter Max Bruch principally through his beloved Violin Concerto No. 1, but two of his other pieces for solo instrument with orchestra appear occasionally: his Kol Nidrei for cello, and his Scottish Fantasy for violin. The acclaimed violinist Joseph Joachim had premiered the concerto, and when Bruch wrote the Scottish Fantasy more than a decade later, in the winter of 1879-80, he again turned to Joachim for advice about technical details.

When he composed this piece in Berlin, he was angling for an appointment in Great Britain. In April 1880, he was named Director of the Philharmonic Society in Liverpool, where he and Joachim unveiled the Scottish Fantasy the next year. He maintained that his passion for the writings of Sir Walter Scott inspired this piece, beginning with an opening slow section he said portrayed “an old bard, who contemplates a ruined castle, and laments the glorious times of old.” The first three movements, played practically without breaks between, adapt the Scottish folk tunes “Auld Rob Morris,” “The Dusty Miller,” and “I’m Down for Lack of Johnnie.” The finale quotes the song “Scots wha hae,” said to have been sounded (under its original title, “Hey Tuttie Tatie”) by Robert Bruce’s army at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, a decisive encounter in which Scotland asserted its independence from the Kingdom of England.


(18 minutes)

Ciel d’hiver (Winter Sky) (2002-13)

(10 minutes)


Ciel d’hiver (Winter Sky) 


Kaija Saariaho was so drawn to visual imagery that she considered a career in painting or design before veering toward music. After studying in her native Helsinki and in Germany, she settled in Paris, where she became involved in electronic composition at the musical technology center IRCAM. There she developed her characteristic sound, which often involves—or at least suggests—an interaction of acoustic and electronic instruments weaving textures that are simultaneously sensual and mysterious. One of the most prominent composers of her generation, Saariaho has produced a generous body of work that includes five operas and an oratorio, numerous large-scale pieces for voices with orchestra, symphonic works, and many compositions for chamber combinations. She has been recognized with many of her field’s top international awards, including the Grawemeyer Award, Wihuri Prize, Nemmers Prize, Sonning Prize, and Polar Music Prize.

Ciel d’hiver traces its ancestry to Saariaho’s orchestral work Orion, from 2002—three movements relating to the figure of Greek mythology who was an adventurous hunter on Earth before taking permanent form as a heavenly constellation. In 2013 she revised the second movement into the standalone Ciel d’hiver, downsizing the extravagance of her original orchestration while maintaining the sense of a frigid night sky where melodic motifs glisten and flicker like stars within a frame of incomprehensible vastness.

Symphony No. 7 in C, Op. 105 (1918-24)

(22 minutes)

JEAN SIBELIUS (1865-1957)

Symphony No. 7 in C major, Op. 105
     molto moderato—Allegro moderato—
     molto—Affettuoso—Tempo I


Sibelius’s Seventh Symphony ushers us into the composer’s late period, during which he became increasingly concerned with paring music to its essentials, achieving a sense of visionary spirituality. He worked on his final three symphonies concurrently beginning in 1918, with the Seventh occupying him until 1924. Sibelius initially envisioned that this final symphony would unroll through three separate movements, but in the end, he brought everything together into a single movement lasting some 22 minutes. The form was not one traditionally associated with a symphony; in fact, he at first titled the piece Fantasia sinfonica. He changed his mind shortly before the work’s publication, admitting it to the roster of his full-scale, “proper” symphonies.

The symphony traverses a considerable landscape despite its brevity, passing seamlessly through 11 discrete sections marked with differing tempos. In an essay published in 1939, the music analyst Donald Francis Tovey compared listening to Sibelius’s Seventh to the sensation of flying in an aircraft. “An aeronaut carried with the wind,” he remarked, “has no sense of movement at all; but Sibelius’s airships are roomy enough for the passengers to dance if they like. … He moves in the air and can change his pace without breaking his movement.” The composer, ever reluctant to “explain” his pieces, had this to say: “Joy of life and vitalité with appassionata passages.”

Did you know?

Max Bruch is renowned for his First Violin Concerto, but he actually composed three of them as well as his Scottish Fantasy for violin, which incorporates authentic Scottish melodies—his stab at improving chances for an appointment in Great Britain.

The New York Philharmonic returns to Bravo! Vail in 2023 for its 20th annual summer residency, performing works both fresh and familiar with its signature brilliance and power.

All artists, programs, and pricing are subject to change.

Presented at

Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater