Jean Sibelius , born Johan Julius Christian Sibelius, was a Finnish composer and violinist of the late Romantic and early-modern periods. He is widely recognized as his country's greatest composer and, through his music, is often credited with having helped Finland to develop a national identity during its struggle for independence from Russia.
Sibelius started work on his Symphony No. 1 in E minor, Op. 39, in 1898 and completed it in early 1899, when he was 33. The work was first performed on 26 April 1899 by the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by the composer, in an original, well received version which has not survived. After the premiere, Sibelius made some revisions, resulting in the version performed today. The revision was completed in the spring and summer of 1900, and was first performed in Berlin by the Helsinki Philharmonic, conducted by Robert Kajanus on 18 July 1900. The symphony begins with a highly original, rather forlorn clarinet solo backed by subdued timpani.