The Worst Composer in the World?


Whilst technically most of his works were composed during the Modern classical period, Jean Sibelius was perhaps truly the last composer of the Romantic style.

At a time when the Second Viennese School was experimenting with atonality and the serial twelve-tone technique, Sibelius was composing traditional symphonies and works inspired by Finnish folk music, with clear echoes of his major influences, Wagner, Brucker and Tchaikovsky.  The stripped back sonata-form and severe orchestration of his works were in stark contrast to the complex works of his contemporaries like Shoenberg and Mahler and provoked the ire of many critics, including René Leibowitz who went so far as to describe Sibelius as “the worst composer in the world.”

Whilst his conservative, strictly tonal style may have seemed old hat to contemporary critics, some fifty years after his death he has become one of the most popular of the 20th century composers – and as he said himself, "Pay no attention to what critics say. No statue has ever been put up to a critic." 

We have a very extensive selection of recordings of the works of Jean Sibelius including all seven of his symphonies, many conducted by one of his chief champions, Herbert von Karajan.

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