In April 1892 Jean Sibelius conducted the premiere of his Kullervo Symphony in Helsinki. As the young composer's first symphony and his only choral one and as his first setting of texts from the Finnish epic the Kalevala, Kullervo appeared to be a bolt from the blue. Closer examination, however, shows numerous forces at work, not only in Finland but also across Europe, that formed the essential backdrop to Sibelius's powerful, breakthrough composition. The author explores the literary, artistic, social, and political circumstances that provided the fertile soil from which the explosive Kullervo sprang.
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