Lemminkäinen Suite (includes The Swan of Tuonela)
Jean Sibelius

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Sibelius has 6 entries in the Ultimate Hall of Fame, the same amount as Shostakovich and Rachmaninov. This is the first of them; it's featured in every Hall of Fame apart from a noticeable absence between 2009-2012!

Written in the early 1890s, Sibelius' mythical suite was originally conceived as an opera, Veneen luominen. It's based on the legendary character Lemminkäinen, who travels to the island of the dead. Sibeliuss opulent string writing is a particular highlight in the second movement, The Swan of Tuonela — there are up to seventeen separate string parts, as well as a beautiful cor anglais solo.

Lemminkäinen's Mother by Akseli Gallen-Kallela (1897).