By Mary Nemet | From the September-October 2022 issue of Strings magazine

Finnish composer Jean Sibelius (1865–1957) is renowned worldwide for his majestic symphonies and evocative tone-poems such as Finlandia, all reflecting his roots and including national folk tunes. His smaller-scale works for various instruments are less well-known; the Malinconia for cello and piano is an example. Written in 1900, it was published in 1911 titled Fantasia. An earlier solo cello work, Theme and Variations, dates from 1887.


Sibelius: Malinconia for cello & piano; Breitkopf, €19.90

Malinconia was penned as a fundraising exercise for the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra’s tour to the Paris Exhibition in 1900. Cellist Georg Schnéevoigt premiered it in Helsinki in the same year. It was enthusiastically received by critics and audience alike. Critic Evert Katila reported, “With its clear and logical structure… the instruments unite in a harmonious, deeply emotional song.” Whether this poignant work relates to the devastating loss of Sibelius’ youngest daughter, Kristi,  from typhoid fever remains unknown.

This edition has been prepared for Breitkopf by Anna Pulkkis as part of their complete edition of Sibelius, and contains an extensive preface and critical commentary. If the cellist and piano partner can negotiate and master the virtuosic arpeggiated passages in both parts, they will be rewarded with a soulful opening cello cadenza and a hauntingly beautiful melody that brings out the cello’s most captivating tonal qualities.