Cranes, the birds of my youth

Text: Timo Virtanen

Cranes, the biggest birds living in the Finnish nature, made a deep impression on Sibelius with their majestic appearance and with the voice that ripples the enchantment of the wild nature. Cranes were “the birds of my youth” for Sibelius, and their voices carried him far away from all that was ordinary. In his diary, Sibelius wrote  his experiences on cranes’ arrival and their familiar voices during the springtime migration: “I saw cranes. I heard once again my voices!”

The nature and especially birds were an important source of inspiration for Sibelius. Particularly during the springs and autumns, migration times, Sibelius wrote to his diary about birds he had seen and heard. The most important among them were the experiences with the majestic figures of flying swans and cranes, and with the voices of them that echoed mystique of the nature. The swans seem to be portraying an ideal picture for Sibelius, distant and aesthetic, cranes on the other hand were “birds of his youth”, full of feeling of life, and their voices his own.

Experiences with the nature and the birds can be heard in Sibelius’s music. The music though does not create associations with the images of post cards or landscape drawings, but it feels to pass on deep and powerful, even religious nature experiences. In Sibelius’ music, the nature is not explored from outside in, but rather from the inside out: exuding the mystery of a human, nature, and being.

Many Finns may draw in their minds an equal sign between the nature and the landscape and Sibelius’s music, but people all around the world can experience in their own way the richness and greatness of the nature, and feelings affected by the changing seasons in his music. One can imagine a slowly approaching skein of cranes in the sky and hear their metallic, sonorous calling.

The Cranes