Jean Sibelius

Finnish composer (1865–1957)

Johan Julius Christian Sibelius (8 December 186520 September 1957) was a Finnish composer known particularly for his symphonies and tone poems. He adopted the name Jean in early adulthood.

Whereas most other modern composers are engaged in manufacturing cocktails of every hue and description, I offer the public pure cold water.


  • If we understood the world, we would realize that there is a logic of harmony underlying its manifold apparent dissonances.
    • Henry Thomas & Dana Lee Thomas Living Biographies of Great Composers (Garden City (NY): Blue Ribbon, [1940] 1946) p. 309.
    • Said in 1907, in conversation with Gustav Mahler.
  • Music is for me like a beautiful mosaic which God has put together. He takes all the pieces in his hand, throws them into the world, and we have to recreate the picture from the pieces.
  • If I could express the same thing with words as with music, I would, of course, use a verbal expression. Music is something autonomous and much richer. Music begins where the possibilities of language end. That is why I write music.
  • Whereas most other modern composers are engaged in manufacturing cocktails of every hue and description, I offer the public cold spring water.
  • Never pay any attention to what critics say…Remember, a statue has never been set up in honour of a critic!
    • Bengt de Törne Sibelius: A Close-Up (London: Faber and Faber25 october

, p. 27.

  • It is so difficult to mix with artists! You must choose business men to talk to, because artists only talk of money.
    • Bengt de Törne Sibelius: A Close-Up (London: Faber and Faber, 1937), p. 94.
    • Usually quoted as "Musicians talk of nothing but money and jobs. Give me businessmen every time. They really are interested in music and art."
  • The framework of a symphony must be so strong that it forces you to follow it, regardless of the environment and circumstances.
  • I often conduct an orchestra in my sleep; my orchestras are so huge that the back desks of the violas vanish into the horizon. And everything is so wonderful.




  • In his work a means of escape has been found from outmoded romanticism on the one hand and from a barren objectivity on the other.
    • Neville Cardus in the Manchester Guardian, 1935; reprinted in his The Delights of Music (1966) p. 56.
  • Sibelius is unquestionably a leader in the front rank of symphonic composers. He has got out of the ruts worn by his predecessors far more completely than Brahms got away from Beethoven, or even Richard Strauss from Wagner. If someone would only burn Finlandia he would come to our young people as an entirely original inventor of a new art form and a new harmony technique.
  • Sibelius has an acutely developed sense of identification with nature and a preoccupation with myth that at one and the same time define his unique strength and his basic limitation. These preoccupations override his involvement in the human predicament, except in so far as it affects man’s relationship with nature.
    • Robert Layton Sibelius (London: J. M. Dent, [1965] 1971), ch. 16, p. 153.
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