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.