Jean Sibelius was born in Finland. He started music lessons early and studied extensively in his native land, in Berlin and in Vienna. He wanted to be a professional violinist, but this was not to be. In 1893, he became interested in the Kalevala legends of Finland and wrote the Kullervo Symphony, which is based on these tales. It made him famous. The country’s government voted to pay him a state grant for the rest of his life. He devoted himself to composing and conducting, writing seven symphonies and several other important works.
Sibelius was known as one of the foremost composers of nationalist music – that is, pieces that celebrate and describe a particular country. Finlandia is probably his most well known work. Its theme has become a hymn and is included in many Protestant hymnals. Finlandia became the theme of the Finnish Resistance during World War II.
As time went on, Sibelius’music was less and less appreciated. He finally stopped composing and, living quietly in the country, wrote nothing for the last 31 years of his life.