Aallottarett - Sea Nymphs
The Oceanides in Finnish `Aallottaret' or "nymphs of the waves" was written for the Norfolk Music Festival in the United States. It resulted from a commission by Horatio Parker who was acting on behalf of the millionaire and festival promoter Carl Stoeckel and his wife. In 1913, Sibelius started to prepare the work as a suite but this music is the one that has survived and played at the Lahti Sibelius festival under Osmo Vänskä. In the spring of 1914, Sibelius prepared a one-movement orchestral work in D flat major from the material.
Inspiration for his tone poems generally came to him from two basic sources: Finnish legend, as recorded in the national epic the Kalevala, and Nature in its varied moods and awesome dimensions. In some instances these two powerful influences converged. The Oceanides, as Sibelius pointed out, "derives from the mythology of Homer and not from the Kalevala," but the work has been regarded by many as a marine counterpart to the brooding and terrifying landscape painted later in his final masterwork in this genre (the last of his orchestral works, in fact), Tapiola, which represents the Kalevala's depiction of the domain of the forest god Tapio. These two contrasting yet complementary works, incidentally, were the only ones Sibelius composed specifically for presentation in the United States. He was not present for the premiere of Tapiola, given by Walter Damrosch (who had commissioned it) and his New York Symphony Orchestra at the end of 1926, but he himself conducted the premiere of The Oceanides at the Norfolk Music Festival in Connecticut a dozen years earlier, on June 14, 1914.
The theme for this work may have been the prospect of an ocean voyage to conduct the premiere that inspired Sibelius's thoughts to the subject of Oceanus and his three thousand daughters. The work is composed in a rondo form. The work was initially thought of as `Rondo of the Waves'. Sibelius wanted to emphasise the fact that he was not just portraying a seascape but was focused on bringing out visions of nymphs sporting on the crests of the waves. The nymphs are not seductresses and their sport reminds the listeners of a serious nature; the idea was to personify the sea itself in terms of its mystical creatures. This was later hinted also in another symphonic poem, Tapiola.
Toward the end of his life, Sibelius referred to the Oceanides as one of his favourite works. He never provided a specific program for it and the listener should not be desperate to seek one. There are general impressions of high waves and the hint of a storm gathering. The concise nature of the thematic material and the colour touches by flutes, harps, clarinets and the timpani. These are all distinct devices used by the composer