Swan of Tuonela

“Tuonela, the Kingdom of Death, the Hades of Finnish mythology, is surrounded by a broad river of black water and rapid current, in which the Swan of Tuonela glides in majestic fashion and sings.”

It’s my favourite piece by my favourite composer; one of the most atmospheric pieces of music I know. Swans, according to legend, sing only on the verge of death – the Swan of Tuonela sings for ever. The cellos hint at dark currents in the river; the strings and other woodwind suggest the wind stirring the reeds; and eventually we hear echoes of the swan’s song – but from where?

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