Sunday, Feb. 5, 2012
Sibelius in His PJ's
It's afternoon and the pale sun is making birch-tree shadows on the snow. Sibelius, his homeland's greatest composer, is in silk pajamas, sent him by an admirer in Prague. He can't remember which admirer it was, he knows the pajamas are from Prague. We are with him in Finland.
Sibelius is thinking of ski troops all in white, rifles strapped to their backs. Then he adds to the picture, parachutes -- ski troops with rifles strapped on, parachuting in the thin afternoon sun.
The late sunlight colors birch-tree shadows lilac, a shade of lilac that would be perfect for silk pajamas. An admirer in the United States, was it Niagara Falls?, presented Sibelius with an armful of lilacs, which attracted a bee, whose wings hummed an E flat, which was of course the key of his Fifth Symphony. The E flat of the bee against the pajama tones of the lilacs made Sibelius homesick for Finland and silence. He hoped he would not lose that little dissonance, which was growing to the size of a stage full of instrumentalists, but in America there was so much talking. He was impatient to return to Finland where he did not have to talk to anyone for years at a time.
No one knows what thoughts the Maestro had on his return voyage to Europe. He remained in his stateroom every nautical mile of the way home to Helsinki. We do know he saw several icebergs, and they too made him yearn for home.
After World War I Sibelius did not travel. After World War II he wrote almost nothing. He did write beautifully when the Finns and Russians fought in the snow. As far as we know, that was the one and only musical war of his lifetime.
Jim Hazard is the author of several books of poems, including New Year's Eve in Whiting, Indiana. "Sibelius in His P.j.'s" was originally published in Burdock.