The piece we will hear is “The Swan of Tuonela” by Jean Sibelius. This work falls under the category of tone poems, as it is based on the mythology of the culture it stems from. In this case, it was the Finnish heritage of Sibelius, in particular the Legend of Kalevala, that inspired the music that you’ll hear. The legend, in short, is the story of Lemminkainen, the hero, who journeys through the realm of the dead to kill a sacred swan. Sibelius’ music flatly ignores the hero of the story and focuses instead on the graceful and transcendent movements of the swan as it glides through the waters of the underworld.
The orchestration of the piece is normal except for the inclusion of the English Horn, which is a relatively rare instrument in the orchestral repertoire and one that isn’t played by very many people. However, in this work, it is the English Horn that represents the swan and carries the most memorable and well-known melody. I’m sure you won’t have any trouble picking out the melody when it appears, so I’ll leave it to you to simply enjoy the music 🙂
P.S. If you have any composers or styles of music that you would like to hear more from, let me know and I’ll send some out 🙂