Jean Sibelius never approached a symphony in the same way twice. Symphony No. 7 from 1923 is a prime example of the development of ever new musical material springing from a simple, basic idea. In its one long movement, Sibelius once again deals with man’s fight against the powers of nature. He once expressed his ambition to achieve stylistic strictness and inner cohesion between all the themes to Gustav Mahler. This symphony is a case in point. 1907 was a fateful year for Gustav Mahler. He was thrown out of the Vienna Opera, his daughter Maria died, and he had his own heart problems. The Chinese Flute by Hans Bethge, German translations of classical Chinese poetry, gave some comfort, and was the inspiration for Das Lied von der Erde the following year. Mahler knew that he must soon part from the beauty of the world. He was never to hear it performed, as the original performance took place six months after his death. Here, the composer is at his most delicate and transparent; the orchestra is treated as a large chamber ensemble throughout, and is used sparingly in its entirety.
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