Again, no one ever told me about this masterpiece, I had to discover it on my own. This symphony, in my opinion, is Sibelius' greatest achievement. I know the 5th, the 2nd, the 4th, the 7th, Tapiola, other works, but this has always remained my favorite work. Its odd to me that the 6th is rarely commented on or given the attention that is showered upon Tapiola and the 5th (or even the 7th!)
The work is sunny, it is cheerful- but with a subtle melancholy so distinct to Sibelius' late work. The harmonies are rich, vigorous. Here he isn’t afraid of dissonance and breaking the rules. Here we have a unique, a truly original and independent musical voice, fresh and universal in its language.
Common in any discussion of Sibelius is the term "organic" unity- applied in particular to the symphonies. There is no doubt in my mind that this common phrase touches the truth. Its hard to describe his sprawling (yet distinct and organized) structures- it moves from one idea to the next (when at his best) flawlessly and logically, just as Beethoven might. There are shifts, sudden, yet fitting, and the movements have a cyclical feel- a massive epic that turns and shifts about... eventually returning to the main idea, the main concept of the movement. The best example is in the sublime first movement in his 3rd symphony which is nothing short of miraculous, but you'll find it in all of his best symphonies. Timothy L. Jackson and Veijo Murtomäki in their Sibelius Studies described the music as being in "rotational form".
I have seen writers describe the later works of Sibelius as "austere" -yet this work is a wonderful counter-example to that claim. The harmonies, rich and full of variety, the incredible lyricism- emotion pours out of the melodic lines. This not emotionalism in the typical romantic or modern modes, but a powerfully sincere - a deeply felt kind of emotion that really hits on the profound.
Sublime, the last two movements in particular, sublime. Sibelius, not Brahms, is the only worthy successor to Beethoven in the symphonic form.
Sibelius held up these same values that Beethoven clearly held- emotional sincerity, individualism, universality.
Thats the heap of praise I give Sibelius. If you have criticisms of this work (or my post) I wont cry. As always please speak your mind.