Finlandia, Op. 26, is a tone poem by the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius. It was written in 1899 and revised in 1900. The piece was composed for the Press Celebrations of 1899, a covert protest against increasing censorship from the Russian Empire, and was the last of seven pieces performed as an accompaniment to a tableau depicting episodes from Finnish history. The premiere was on 2 July 1900 in Helsinki with the Helsinki Philharmonic Society conducted by Robert Kajanus. A typical performance takes between 7½ and 9 minutes depending on how it is performed.
In order to avoid Russian censorship, Finlandia had to be performed under alternative names at various musical concerts. Titles under which the piece masqueraded were numerous and often confusing —famous examples include Happy Feelings at the awakening of Finnish Spring, and A Scandinavian Choral March.
Most of the piece is taken up with rousing and turbulent music, evoking the national struggle of the Finnish people. Towards the end, a calm comes over the orchestra, and the serene and melodic Finlandia Hymn is heard. Often incorrectly cited as a traditional folk melody, the Hymn section is of Sibelius' own creation.
Although he initially composed it for orchestra, in 1900 Sibelius arranged the work for solo piano.
Sibelius later reworked the Finlandia Hymn into a stand-alone piece. This hymn, with words written in 1941 by Veikko Antero Koskenniemi, is one of the most important national songs of Finland. Today, during modern performances of the full-length Finlandia, a choir is sometimes involved, singing the Finnish lyrics with the hymn section.
With different words, it is also sung as a Christian hymn (I Sought The Lord, And Afterward I Knew; Be Still, My Soul, When Memory Fades, Hail, Festal Day, in Italian evangelical churches: Veglia al mattino), and was the national anthem of the short-lived African state of Biafra (Land of the Rising Sun). In Wales the tune is used for Lewis Valentine's patriotic hymn Gweddi Dros Gymru (A Prayer for Wales).
The Tone Poem is scored for large orchestra, consisting of the following:
- 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 B♭ clarinets, 2 bassoons
- 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba
- timpani, bass drum, cymbals, triangle
- harp, 1st violins, 2nd violins, violas, cellos, double basses
Press Celebrations Music
Similarly to the Karelia Suite, the original Press Celebrations Music suite was never originally released under Sibelius' supervision, but after almost 99 years with the sheet music untouched, the suite was reconstructed and released on two different CDs, the first one by the Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra in 1998, conducted by Tuomas Ollila, and the second by the Lahti Symphony Orchestra in 2000, conducted by Osmo Vänskä. The last two movements of the suite were later reworked to become Finlandia.
The original movements are as follows.
- Preludium: Andante (ma non troppo)
- Tableau 1: The Song of Väinämöinen
- Tableau 2: The Finns are Baptized by Bishop Henry
- Tableau 3: Scene from Duke Johan's Court
- Tableau 4: The Finns in the Thirty Years' War
- Tableau 5: The Great Hostility
- Tableau 6: Finland Awakes
- Finnish film director Renny Harlin featured Finlandia prominently in the film score for his 1990 film Die Hard 2: Die Harder.
- Finlandia is used in Finders Keepers, Lovers Weepers! by Russ Meyer.
- Finnish symphonic power metal band Nightwish has used Finlandia as an intro to their live concerts, such as shows that are a part of their Imaginaerum World Tour.
- Before joining Nightwish, Troy Donockley had already played a version of Finlandia as guest musician for Mostly Autumn. It also appears on his album The Unseen Stream.
- Joan Baez has performed Finlandia at her concerts since 2007 and also featured Finlandia Hymn on her 2005 live album Bowery Songs; a live performance of the song by Baez also appeared on the album Mitä vapaus on, a compilation of protest songs by various artists, released by Amnesty.
- On 8 December 2015, Sibelius' 150th birthday, Sibelius Academy of the University of the Arts Helsinki gathered over 1000 people on the Senate Square to sing Finlandia.
- The Walking Dead features Finlandia in episode 5 of season 7 as Sasha and Maggie awaken at Hilltop in the night to a recording of Finlandia blasting from a parked car and zombies coming in.
- Finlandia, Op.26: Scores at the International Music Score Library Project
- Full score of a number of Sibelius's tone poems, including this piece
- 2012 YouTube video recording of Finlandia Op. 26 by Jean Sibelius