Symphony No. 5 : Work information

Jean (Julius Christian) Sibelius ( Music, Images,)
Performed by
Utah Symphony Orchestra, Maurice Abravanel (Conductor)

This work

Work name
Symphony No. 5
Work number
Op. 82
E flat major
1915-00-00 02:00:00

This recording

Seymour Solomon
Marc Aubort and Joanna Nickrenz
Recording date
1977-05-01 01:00:00

Track listing

  • Tempo molto moderato - Allegro moderato 13:26 min
  • Andante mosso quasi allegretto 7:46 min
  • Allegro molto 8:16 min


The outbreak of war in 1914 had prevented Sibelius from visiting the great capitals of Europe. The loss of revenue from his German publishers forced him to compose a great deal of piano music for the domestic market. However, in his enforced isolation, he also turned to the Fifth Symphony, and produced a work full of heroism and optimistic spirit.

Completed just in time for the composer's 50th birthday celebrations on 8 December 1915, the Fifth Symphony is one of the Sibelius' most popular works. Originally in four movmements, subsequent revisions in 1916 and 1919 merged the first two sections together to create the three-movement work we know today.

An unusually short Symphony, the first movment has been acclaimed one of his greatest symphonic movements. Its unity and organic growth from small motifs are typical of the symphonic style that Mahler admired so much. The famous last movment with its strident horn theme is perhaps less accomplished but forms a triumphant end to this sunny work.

The Composers

Jean (Julius Christian) Sibelius

Sibelius (1865-1957) learned about and loved music and nature from an early age, and he grew to be an exceptional player of the violin he had been given on his fifteenth birthday.  His family didn't approve of his desire for a career in music and composition though, and enrolled him in Helsinki University to study law.  He also enrolled in the Helsinki Academy of Music, and with the later encouragement of an uncle moved over to it full time, composing a String Trio in A major and a String Quartet in A minor among others.  He went on to study in Berlin and Vienna, but on his return to Finland, the country's nationalism (prompted by fears of its Soviet-controlled future) sparked an urge in Sibelius to use his music to express Finnish identity. 

The Kaleva, a Finnish epic, inspired many of Sibelius' works.  The first to bring him fame was a five-movement symphonic poem Kullervo (1892), followed by En Saga, the Karelia Suite, and his most well-known work, Finlandia.  This last was banned by the Russian authorities because of its morale-boosting effect on the population.  His First Symphony in E minor is a romantic work (owing a lot to Tchaikovsky), but the Second Symphony in D minor is more characteristic of Sibelius' technique of constructing movements from small 'cells' which expand and transform.

The tone poem Tapiola marked the end of Sibelius' composing career in 1926, though he lived until 1957.  In his seven symphonies, orchestral, choral and chamber music, the Finnish country and native folk songs inspire a majestic and richly harmonic expression of proud national identity.  Some of Sibelius' works also seem to portray a feeling of animosity, directed at the Russian dominance and restriction of his country. 

Related composers: Tchaikovsky