En Saga, Op. 9

En Saga is a transition work of sorts. Sibelius had just premiered his gigantic “choral symphony” Kullervo in that same year, a piece that required so many musicians for performance that Sibelius only heard it five times in his life. After that gargantuan piece, Sibelius was just beginning to appreciate the beauties of brevity and economy as he launched into En Saga. He had also moved away from his earlier interest in Richard Wagner’s music and methods, finding the idea of Wagner’s “leit motifs” (those recurring themes that represent a character, or action, etc.) too obvious. With En Saga, Sibelius began instead to explore the genre of the tone-poem made popular by Liszt and began working out his unique method of thematic homogeneity – that is, the seamless transfiguration of musical motives and themes throughout a piece.