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Andrew Barnett

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The most balanced and complete biography of Sibelius to date, published on the 50th anniversary of the great composer’s death

Informed by a wealth of information that has come to light in recent years, this engaging biography tells the complete story of the life and musical work of Finnish composer Jean Sibelius (1865-1957). Drawing on Sibelius’s own correspondence and diaries, contemporary reviews, and the remarks of family and friends, the book presents a rich account of the events of the musician’s life. In addition, this volume is the first to set every work and performable fragment by Sibelius in its historical and musical context. Filling a significant gap, the biography also provides the first accurate information about much of the composer’s early music.

Writing for the general music-lover, Andrew Barnett combines his own extensive knowledge of Sibelius’s music with the insights of other scholars and musicians. He lays to rest a number of myths and untruths—that Sibelius wrote no chamber music of value, for example, and that he stopped composing in 1926 and didn’t need to compose to earn a living. Barnett completes the volume with the most thorough worklist available and an authoritative chronology of Sibelius’s entire output.

Andrew Barnett is founder and chairman of the UK Sibelius Society. He lives in Brighton, England.

"Andrew Barnett is unfailingly perceptive and has the ability to engage the interest of both the less informed and the more expert reader. Few would be better qualified to undertake a new book on the Finnish master."—Robert Layton, author of Sibelius (Master Musicians Series)

'It is bang up to date and, in its riveting biographical study of the complex man, and its unchallengeable assessment of his music, is a book that, for all of us interested in the wonderful, elusive, ambiguous complexities of Sibelius and his music, is immediately indispensable.'  - The Herald

"[An] illuminating survey of Jean Sibelius. . . . Incorporated throughout is Barnett's in-depth analysis of Sibelius's compositions, a critique so finely tuned that many readers will want to listen as they read."—Publishers Weekly

'...if an introduction to the composer's work is what you seek, then Andrew Barnett's book will provide as comprehensive a guide as you could hope for.'  - Simon Heffer, Literary Review

"Barnett, chairman of the UK Sibelius Society, redresses the balance.  After reading his book, I bought a CD of Sibelius's Bagatelles for piano Opus 34 -- a group of 10 miniatures that play with the conventions of French salon music."  - Damian Thompson, Daily Telegraph

"Barnett's authoritative book covers Silbelius' life and work, documented from a wide variety of sources, and puts the case for Sibelius clearly for the general reader as much as the expert."  - Robert Giddings, Tribune

"Last year was the 50th anniversary of the death of Jean Sibelius, and if you're looking for a text accompaniment to all the festivals and CD releases, this could be it. Barnett . . . offers up formal and thematic analyses of everything Sibelius compsed from his student days up through the final works he destroyed. . . . Scholars will no doubt love Barnett's thoroughness, and the musical examples and works list are invaluable resources in themselves. A good volume for your bookshelf."—Ian VanderMeulen, Symphony

"A book of great importance: a fresh, evenhanded account of the composer, especially of his early years. . . . A welcome antidote to the seesaw of critical attention from uncritical admirers and excessively harsh critics. . . . Highly recommended."—Choice

“Barnett neatly dispels other myths, explaining how from around 1930 to his death, Sibelius completed briefer works while striving, unsuccessfully, to complete his Eighth Symphony. . . . A warmly humanizing, informed biography.”--Benjamin Ivry, The Newark Star-Ledger


A 2007 Top Seller in Music as compiled by YBP Library Services

Selected as a 2008 AAUP University Press Book for Public and Secondary School Libraries.

Selected by Choice magazine as an Outstanding Academic Title from 2008.
ISBN: 9780300111590
Publication Date: December 5, 2007
464 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
16 b/w illus.