Weekend at the SFS: Esa-Pekka Salonen & Leila Josefowicz [Preview]

BY NATHAN CRANFORD

This weekend at Davies Hall, famed Finnish conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen will be leading the San Francisco Symphony in two evenings of Nordic-influenced classical music. Salonen is a conductor and composer whose Violin Concerto will be performed in addition to works by Richard Wagner and Jean Sibelius, who is considered by many to be Finland’s greatest composer.

The evening begins with a performance of Jean Sibelius’ tone poem Pohjola’s Daughter, Op. 49. The tone poem is based upon a character from the Finnish national epic Kalevala, which is considered to be one of the most significant examples of Finnish literature. Sibelius had originally wanted to name the tone poem after the epic’s shamanistic hero Väinämöinen (pronounced VI-na-MER-nen), but his publisher insisted upon naming the work after the beautiful maiden from the northern land of Pohjola, whom Väinämöinen wishes to marry. In addition to perfectly capturing the essence of the narrative, Sibelius musically evokes the chilled, wintery beauty of the northern lands and its mythology. As a matter of fact, the word pohjola is now used in the modern Finnish language to refer to the Nordic countries.

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