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Practice Notes, Ep. 27 - Polonaise of the Polar Bears!



Picking up Jean Sibelius’ violin concerto, a manifestation of the composer’s deepest penchant for the violin and a work we could not imagine being without. The technical demands, especially in the final movement (!), underscore generally dark, robust orchestral colors and a pointed rhythmic architecture. There’s something so 3-D about this work that I just absolutely love! You may or may not be surprised to know that Sibelius actually lessened the technical challenges in the revised version, which is the one we understand the work to be nowadays. The first version was poorly received by critics and others, but it frankly contributes to a more nuanced appreciation of this beloved work.


The segment in this clip is one of the parts that the composer retains, save for a few pretty significant changes in the orchestration. For example, the rhythm of the backdrop in the beginning of the final movement - indeed, which lends the mvmt the characterization of a “polonaise [Polish dance] for the polar bears” - is actually inverted in the original version! Completely different sensation… I reckon that the dancing restlessness is thanks to this small revision.


Issues at hand: pulse, bow distribution, and left hand frame anticipation.

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