Sibelius and Astronomy: Cosmic Connections

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Most classical music lovers will be familiar with at least a few works by the great Finnish composer Jean Sibelius (1865-1957). His catalog includes 7 symphonies, a violin concerto, and numerous symphonic poems and orchestral suites, in addition to popular works such as Finlandia and Valse Triste. To aspiring astronomers in the United Kingdom over the past 60 years, Sibelius’s music has been inextricably linked with astronomy through the use of “At the Castle Gate” from his Pelléas et Mélisande Suite as the theme for The Sky at Night, the longest running show on British television. However, music lovers and astronomers alike may be unaware that there are several other, more direct links between Sibelius and astronomy. He clearly had a strong interest in the field – indeed, he may even have considered it as a career, largely though the influence of his Uncle, Pehr Sibelius, who was an enthusiastic amateur astronomer. There is evidence to indicate that several of his compositions, spanning his career from an early violin sonata to the opening theme of the 7th Symphony, were inspired by astronomical concepts. Research on these and other connections has been published in two recent papers, available for download here:

Sibelius and Astronomy: Cosmic Connections (published by the international SibeliusOne society)
Sibelius and Astronomy: Beyond The Sky at Night (published by Astronomy & Geophysics)

 

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