The Finnish people have never felt more united than they did one century ago. Russia’s rule over Finland was becoming more and more oppressive and preparations were being made to amalgamate the Finnish army with the Russian war machine. The group of artists to which Jean Sibelius belonged made no secret of their patriotic convictions; the time for politically unengaged art was over. The great composer had, after all, himself created a hymn to his homeland with Finlandia in 1899 and another new composition by him would provide another powerful political statement. We know that these political developments were a cause of great concern to Sibelius; Erik Tawaststjerna’s monumental monograph leaves us in no doubt over this. Sibelius was nonetheless particularly irritated by comments made by Robert Kajanus, Finland’s most well-known conductor, who interpreted the Second Symphony as a musical depiction of the resistance and the triumph of the Finnish people in an article for the Hufvudstadsbladet newspaper a week after the work’s premiere; this opinion was consequently adopted by many. Sibelius wanted nothing to do with such political interpretations and said as much later in a letter to Georg Schneevoigt, another conductor, after Schneevoigt had explained the symphony in similar terms in a programme note for its performance in Boston. For Sibelius the symphonic form was the means par excellence for an escape from programme music, for this was what was continually being demanded of him and which he composed because he needed the commission fees.