A conservatory-trained musician, Jean Sibelius (1865-1957) embarked upon violin studies before finding his true métier as a composer. Although he was brought up in a Swedish-speaking household, Sibelius became deeply sympathetic to the Finnish nationalist cause, a fact reflected in works such as Karelia and Finlandia. More than any other figure he put Finland on the map, musically speaking. His violin concerto is one of the greatest works of its type and his seven symphonies – which date from 1899 to 1924 – hold an important place in the history of the 20th-century symphony. Sibelius struggled with depression and alcohol dependence for much of his life and experienced a very powerful creative crisis from the early 1930s. Retreating to his log villa at Järvenpää outside Helsinki, he wrote almost nothing in his last 25 years. Oddly enough, this was a time when he enjoyed considerable fame at home and abroad. We know that Sibelius laboured over his Eighth Symphony during this period but no trace of the work survives – he tossed the manuscript into a combustion stove in the mid-1940s and it went up in smoke.

© Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra