Tuonela, as per Finnish mythology, refers to the land of the dead. The Swan of Tuonela glides on the dark waters of a lake there and it sings while it glides. This symphonic tone poem is taken from the series of poems Sibelius wrote for his `Legend’ in 1893. These poems were inspired by the Finnish national epic of `Kalevala’. This is part of the Lemminkainen Suite.
Sibelius has combined two themes – one is the melody assigned to the swan which is played by the English horn or the Cor Anglais and another is a theme which is initially played by the cello and it is alter transcribed in the swan melody and developed further. Strings are also divided into several parts. They offer a vibrant background to the melody of the swan. The poem rises to a climax of pathos with a solemn reinstatement of the melody and sinking back to the atmosphere created at the opening.