Wide-spread they stand, the Northland's dusky forests,
ancient, mysterious, brooding savage dreams;
within them dwells the Forest's mighty God,
and wood-sprites in the gloom weave magic secrets.
-- Lines by Jean Sibelius
at the head of his last and perhaps greatest tone poem
. It was written in 1926, his last major work. Its sad, plaintive
, echoing tones fade away and seem to presage the silence
that fell upon Sibelius in his last decades. The work edges along slowly, the music sometimes rising to a great climax, a storm
in the forest, then dropping back to sadness. The spells of the wood-sprites have little to do with human visitors, I think, but they are not evil, rather perilous
Tapio is the old Finnish god of the forest, and -la is a suffix indicating place: Tapiola, the Realm of the Forest God. He appears in the Kalevala.
It is his opus 112, and lasts a little under twenty minutes. It was composed for the Symphonic Society of New York, and had its first performance there, on 26 December 1926.