I was recently listening to a story about a Soviet spy defecting to the West on the news. For numerous reasons, spies do not interest me in the slightest, but what caught my attention was the way in which he was brought across the Soviet-Finnish border. The spy, Oleg Gordiyevsky, was in the trunk of a car, from which he heard the driver turn on Finlandia by Sibelius. I decided to listen to this musical composition, and apparently, the best rendition is supposed to be by Berliner Philharmoniker and Herbert von Karajan, which, duh. The music is triumphant, exuberant, full of nationalist fervor—but not in the Wagner bothersome way, especially given that it was composed when Finland was colonized by Russia and was still struggling for its indepence, of which Sibelius was a champion. Imagine hearing this kind of music from the trunk of a car. Wicked driver! Finns definitely have a beautiful sense of humor. If we didn’t know this from Aki Kaurismäki films, then maybe the latest “rake America great again” should have given a hint. Brb raking forests to the tune of Sibelius.
Jean Sibelius: Finlandia, Valse Triste, Tapiola, The Swan of Tuonela by Berliner Philharmoniker and Herbert von Karajan
Released in 2015 by Deutsche Grammophon