Lemminkäinen Suite

Lemminkäinen Suite
Tone poem by Jean Sibelius

The composer in 1913
Other name Four Legends
Catalogue Op. 22
Period Late-Romantic
Composed 1895 (r. 1897, 1939)
Movements 4
Date 13 April 1896 (1896-04-13)
Location Helsinki, Finland
Conductor Jean Sibelius

The Lemminkäinen Suite (also called the Four Legends, or Four Legends from the Kalevala), Op. 22, is a work written by the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius in the early 1890s. Originally conceived as a mythological opera, Veneen luominen (The Building of the Boat), on a scale matching those by Richard Wagner, Sibelius later changed his musical goals and the work became an orchestral piece in four movements. The suite is based on the character Lemminkäinen from the Finnish national epic, the Kalevala. The piece can also be considered a collection of symphonic poems. The second/third section, The Swan of Tuonela, is often heard separately (the work's inner movements are often reversed as their order is a subject of disagreement among scholars).

The above order of the movements matches their numbering within opus 22. However, Sibelius revised the order in 1947, transposing the middle two movements, which is the order in which most concert performances are played.

The suite is scored for two flutes (one doubling on the piccolo), two oboes (one doubling on the cor anglais), two clarinets (in B) (one doubling on bass clarinet), two bassoons, four horns (in E and F), three trumpets (in E and F), three trombones, tuba, timpani, triangle, bass drum, cymbals, tambourine, harp, and strings.

Tristan Murail's Gondwana incorporates a substantial passage directly modelled upon Lemminkäinen in Tuonela.[5]


The original versions of Lemminkäinen and the Maidens of the Island and Lemminkäinen's Return have been recorded by Osmo Vänskä and the Lahti Symphony Orchestra (BIS CD-1015). Other recordings of the full published suite are by the Helsinki Radio Symphony Orchestra under Okko Kamu, the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra under Neeme Järvi, and The Philadelphia Orchestra under Eugene Ormandy.


  1. Elias Lönnrot, The Kalevala, translated by Keith Bosley. Oxford University Press, Oxford World Classics edition (1989), pp. 401–417. ISBN 978-0-19-281700-6.
  2. Lönnrot, (1989) pp. 155-167. Bosley, trans.
  3. Lönnrot (1989), pp.168–186.
  4. Lönnrot (1989), p. 431.
  5. Grimley, Daniel M., ed. (2004). The Cambridge Companion to Sibelius, p.200. ISBN 978-0-521-89460-9.

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