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Jean Sibelius (1865 - 1957)
For the last 30 years of his long life Sibelius produced little, but earlier output had been prolific, and this rose in popularity worldwide while he became a national hero in his native Finland. Although he eschewed modern atonal influences, his music rises far above being just accessible. It is distinctive (a hallmark of the best art), well crafted, and facilitated by a natural melodic and harmonic flair. There is an engaging diversity of all components. Nevertheless, Sibelius's music tends to gravitate towards the elemental.The mood varies – sometimes vastly from piece to piece – but the folk Muse is never far away.
Pelleas and Melisande
A number of composers have taken Maeterlink's 19th century play Pelléas et Mélisande to create works around. The tragic story has the cast, and the inevitability and unsparing cruelty, of a fairy tale and brims with drama. The ability of Sibelius to evoke sombre and idyllic scenes of northern European folklore through entrancing melody and harmony expressed with a clean, vibrant orchestral palette, seems perfectly matched for Maeterlink's mystical play.
In this excerpt arranged for guitar a minor key melody working off a flattened fifth with a quirky counter melody transforms into a second (major) theme a semitone down. The chromaticism continues through major-minor shifts, giving the piece its signature. The piece ends with a delightful coda.