Importance in the 21st century

At the beginning of the 21st century there is evidence of a renewed interest in Sibelius. Since the mid-1990s his symphonies have been performed as a complete series of concerts in London (by the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra under Neeme Järvi and by the London Symphony Orchestra under Sir Colin Davis), in Helsinki (by the European Chamber Orchestra under Paavo Berglund and by the Lahti Symphony Orchestra under Osmo Vänskä), in Tokyo and Lahti (by the Lahti Symphony Orchestra under Vänskä), in Berlin (by Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester under Vladimir Ashkenazy) and in Vienna (by the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra under Jukka-Pekka Saraste).

New recordings of Sibelius are issued frequently. Since the recordings of early masters such as Robert Kajanus, Thomas Beecham, Serge Koussevitzky and Herbert von Karajan, an increasing number of conductors have recorded his works. At the beginning of the 21st century, Paavo Berglund has already recorded the complete symphonies three times, while Lorin Maazel, Sir Colin Davis, Jukka-Pekka Saraste and Leif Segerstam have made two recordings of the complete cycle. Conductors who have recorded the complete cycle once include Simon Rattle, Osmo Vänskä, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Neeme Järvi, Sakari Oramo and Petri Sakari.

Sibelius did not found a school, but his pupils Leevi Madetoja and Toivo Kuula were successful in Finland. He had a powerful influence on several British and American composers, including Arnold Bax, Ralph Vaughan Williams and Samuel Barber.In Finland, Sibelius's ideal of "symphonicity" and his ideal of a composition as something having organic growth were transmitted to Aulis Sallinen, Einar Englund and Joonas Kokkonen, each of whom kept to the ideal in their own individual way.

More recent developments have included the impact of Sibelius's seventh symphony on French composers of "spectral" music, including Tristan Murail and Gerard Grisey. He has also influenced minimalists such as Philip Glass, who has frequently and openly borrowed from him, and post-serial modernists such as the Finnish Magnus Lindberg. Composers who have declared themselves to be Sibelius fans include the American John Adams, who combines minimalism with modernism, and several British composers, for example Thomas Adès and Julian Anderson.

Contemporary composers are interested in Sibelius's ideas of form, the way he manipulates musical time, his ideas concerning colour (which were previously largely ignored), and the way he uses overlapping textures. Sibelius creates, as it were, "music for the green movement": his musical material contains birth, germination and diversification in a process that can be compared to organic growth in the natural world.

Sibelius's masterpieces challenge traditional ideas of form in their ambiguity, and in the way in which content eventually comes to define structure.