The incidental music for The Tempest, the tone poem Tapiola and the Seventh Symphony were Sibelius’ last significant compositions. Possibly the most ambitious and extraordinary symphonies in the repertoire – a work of great confidence and affirmation – the Seventh is more a sort of giant rondo. Comprising one seamless flow of thematic development it builds from a few melodic scraps towards a final upward sweep and trombone hymn that seems to reach out to infinity.
Contrastingly, Tapiola is dusky, mysterious and brooding – evoking the god of the forest and a seemingly endless northern landscape untouched by human warmth, whilst the seldom performed music for Shakespeare’s final play is full of beauty, imagination and power. With its dreamlike, intoxicating atmosphere of magical sonorities it is the perfect foil for Grieg’s nearly perfect concerto, itself inspired by the Scandinavian countryside.