Last night saw the first live stream from Gothenburg on Bachtrack as the GSO presents all seven Sibelius symphonies under maestro Kent Nagano. Bachtrack reviewer David Larkin, lecturer in musicology at the University of Sydney, gave a web-talk about Sibelius’ symphonies and participated in a live Q&A before yesterday’s live stream. For those who missed it (#Sibelius150 on Twitter), here are David’s answers to your questions.

Jean Sibelius
Jean Sibelius
David from Amsterdam asks: Sibelius was heavily influenced by his native Finnish countryside. Where in his symphonies do you hear this the strongest?

DL: The more glacial passages in the late symphonies prepare the way for Tapiola, where Sibelius overtly signals his mystic identification with the Finnish landscape.

Reg from Woking asks: In your experience, which is the hardest of the symphonies to bring off in concert?

DL: This is definitely a question I'd love to ask conductors! The Fourth is pretty uncompromising in its harmonic language, but for me the Sixth is perhaps the most elusive.

Sarah from NYC asks: Have tastes changed re popularity of the symphonies, or has it always been #2 & #5 at the top?

DL: My impression is that 2 & 5 have always been at the top: their big symphonic climaxes and winning melodic material seem to be what the public most readily admires.

Roger from Buxton asks: What would Sibelius’ 8th Symphony have been like?

DL: If only I had psychic abilities! The Eighth apparently was a multi-movement work, so perhaps the standard narratives we tell of his career (Sibelius getting ever more concise) would have needed revision.

Andy from London asks: For you, where does Sibelius stand in terms of the great 20th century symphonists?

DL: As a specialist in 19th-century repertoire, I find Sibelius the most congenial of all 20th-century symphonists: his early works relate to a tradition I love, and he then develops in an idiosyncratic but utterly compelling fashion.

Hedy from Birmingham asks: Has this anniversary year established Sibelius’ works firmly in the repertoire, or might it just be a temporary phenomenon?

DL: There's always a bump for an anniversary year, followed by an inevitable drop off as concert programmers think we need change. Hopefully people have found new works to love through greater exposure.

Paavo from Helsinki asks: How heavily have Finnish symphonists been influenced by Sibelius and his legacy? Who followed in his footsteps?

DL: Sibelius's stature was such that he overshadowed all Finnish symphonists who followed. Those who have been most successful, such as Rautavaara, have fashioned their own style that is only partially indebted to Sibelius.

Dieter from Vienna asks: How far did a ‘national style’ influence his symphonic writing?

DL: His choice of subject matter in his tone poems openly signals his nationalist interests; turn-of-the-century critics were thus primed to hear such affiliations in his 'abstract' symphonies. It's as much a matter of reception as intention.

Nicolas from Paris: What was French composers attitude toward Sibelius in his lifetime? Was he too “German”?

DL: My impression is that Sibelius a was fairly marginal figure in French musical life in the first half of the 20th century. However, post WW2, spectralist composers (Grisey, Murail, Dusapin) learned much from Sibelius's innovations in timbre and texture.

You can watch David's pre-concerto talk, with musical illustrations, here: .