A previously unknown version of Sibelius’ Karelia to be performed at Helsinki Festival

A previously unknown version of Karelia as revised by Jean Sibelius will be performed as part of Helsinki Festival’s classical music programme. The Karelia score was unearthed from the collections of the National Library this spring and contains the Karelia Suite and Karelia Overture as revised by the composer – both works will be heard at the concert of the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra in August.

Helsinki Festival’s classical music programme will include a concert by the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, featuring a new and recently discovered version of Karelia by Jean Sibelius. The concert will be conducted by conductor, Doctor of Music Tuomas Hannikainen, who identified the Sibelius score in the manuscript collections of the National Library this spring. The score includes the Karelia Overture and Karelia Suite as revised by Sibelius. Alongside Finlandia and Valse Triste, Karelia is one of the most performed and beloved works by Sibelius.

The new version is significantly different from the known Karelia score

According to Hannikainen, the notation discovered in the spring is exceptionally perfected and significantly different from the previously known Karelia Overture and Suite: the polyphony is richer, details more accurate, orchestration fuller, tempos more varied and articulations livelier. Entirely new bars have also been added to the overture.

The notes ended up in the National Library as part of a manuscript donation by the Finnish Broadcasting Company Yle in 2010 but its true contents were not noted earlier. The early history of the undated score is still unclear. Sibelius composed the original Karelia Music in 1893. “I plan on rewriting the four movements and looking for a publisher…”, Sibelius wrote to his wife from Berlin on 2 September 1894. Researchers are trying to figure out if the surfaced version has something to do with Sibelius’ plans in Berlin and if it has been performed earlier.

Another rarity to be heard at the New Karelia concert

The previously unknown Karelia will be performed at Helsinki Festival’s matinée concert in the Great Hall of the University of Helsinki on Saturday, 26 August at 3 p.m. The programme includes an orchestrated introduction that sheds light on the contents of the scores. Another Sibelius rarity will also be played: Concert Overture, discovered by Hannikainen in 2018, which will be experienced for the first time as a live concert performance since the early 1900s.

Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra’s Helsinki-themed concert kicks off Helsinki Festival

Helsinki Festival’s classical music programme begins at Musiikkitalo on Thursday, 17 August with a Helsinki-themed concert by the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Jukka-Pekka Saraste and featuring the works of three composers born or settled in Helsinki, namely Lotta Wennäkoski, Einojuhani Rautavaara and Uuno Klami. The concert will also be broadcast in real time in three parks in Helsinki, namely Kaivopuisto, Lapinlahti and Sinebrychoff parks, as part of the Music in the parks event in partnership with Elisa.

More tickets available for Helsinki Festival’s popular classical music concerts

The concerts by the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Susanna Mälkki & Verneri Pohjola at Musiikkitalo on 24 and 25 August have attracted significant interest and additional tickets have been released for sale. A limited number of additional tickets have also been released for sale to the Rite of Spring concert by Nicholas Collon & Aurora Orchestra. The concert takes place at Musiikkitalo on 29 August. Tickets to the concerts are being sold at ticketmaster.fi.

Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra & Tuomas Hannikainen: Sibelius’ new Karelia Sat 26 August at 3 p.m., University of Helsinki, The Great Hall. Tickets to the concert are being sold at lippu.fi.

Helsinki Festival is celebrated 17 August – 3 September 2023. Tickets to all performances and concerts are being sold at ticketmaster.fi or lippu.fi and at Huvilanranta (Eläintarhantie 8).

Helsinki Festival’s main partners are Helsingin Sanomat and Elisa, the sponsor is Accenture and service partners include Akun tehdas, Helsinki Bryggeri, Heku, Marski by Scandic and Renault.

Image: Tuomas Hannikainen