A stirring tone poem
by Jean Sibelius
, overtly nationalistic
in nature, composed in 1899 and adopted by the burgeoning movement for Finland
's independence from Russia
. It lasts about eight minutes, begins very quietly, and at the end of you're bloody proud to be Finnish
... even if you weren't Finnish when it began.
It was originally entitled Finland Awakes!, to illustrate the last of six tableaux of notable events in Finnish history, put on at the Swedish Theatre. Sibelius provided introductory music for this theatrical evening, the culmination of events nominally for the support of the Press Pension Fund, but which were a focus for Finland's nationalist movement, since the press were under pressure from Tsarist control.
Sibelius revised this final piece and renamed it Finlandia, his opus 26. In this form it was first performed in Helsinki in July 1900. It immediately became a rallying piece for Finns. The music is all original, that is it had no basis in the national folk music.
Its first British performance was under Sir Granville Bantock in Liverpool in 1905.
The name Finlandia is a Latinized form of the Swedish (and of course English) name of the country (Finnish Suomi), as we might say Britannia or Germania. It was adopted for other things, such as a brand of vodka and the concert hall in Helsinki designed by Alvar Aalto in 1962.
"The best known bit of Finlandia is used as the Hymn Tune for Be Still, My Soul." - spiregrain