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Not a Traditional Folk Melody
Jean Sibelius composed Finlandia for orchestra in 1899, and it became an overnight sensation. The piece was a political protest supporting the freedom of the Finnish press which was increasingly being controlled by the Russian Empire. Finlandia is a tone poem, an orchestral composition inspired by what the title of the piece refers to. (In Finlandia’s case, nationalism.) The piece premiered in the composer’s native Finland and was performed under various names to avoid this censorship.
Toward the end of the piece the “Finlandia Hymn” is heard, which is not a traditional folk melody most people believe it to be. In fact, the popular tune was created by the composer himself.
By 1900, Finlandia had gained an international audience and remains one of the composer’s most popular works. Sibelius even created a solo piano arrangement of the popular piece later that same year.
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