Sibelius, The Swan of Tuonela

photo by RON COHEN At My

The Swan of Tuonela (Tuonelan joutsen) is an 1895 tone poem by the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius. It is part of the Lemminkäinen Suite (Four Legends from the Kalevala), Op. 22, based on the Kalevala epic of Finnish mythology. The tone poem is scored for a small orchestra of cor anglais, oboe, bass clarinet, two bassoons, four horns, three trombones, timpani, bass drum, harp, and divided strings. The cor anglais is the voice of the swan, and its solo is perhaps the best known cor anglais solo in the orchestral literature. The music paints a gossamer, transcendental image of a mystical swan swimming around Tuonela, the island of the dead. Lemminkäinen, the hero of the epic, has been tasked with killing the sacred swan; but on the way, he is shot with a poisoned arrow and dies. In the next part of the story he is restored to life.


VIDEO: "Lemminkäinen suite Op.22 No.2 : Tuonelan joutsen [The Swan of Tuonela]" by Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra, Sir Andrew Davis


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