The text-critical approach of Sibelius’s works

In the text-critical study, all relevant sources are compared and evaluated, and the editorial principles and decisions are presented and justified.


Many of Sibelius’s works, especially the more extensive ones, were the result of long and intricate compositional processes, from which a varying number of drafts and other musical manuscripts survive. When he had the work in its final form on his desk, he fair-copied the score. If it was intended for publication, he sent the fair copy or a scribal copy to the publisher. Sometimes editorial changes were made to the score in the publishing house, and sometimes Sibelius changed some details himself during the publishing stage. Engravers’ inaccuracies and errors typically ended up in the printed scores. Sibelius was not always a very meticulous proofreader: many published works include errors and inaccuracies that he failed to detect in the proofs.   

The key sources for JSW include Sibelius’s autograph musical manuscripts, copies made of them, instrumental parts, as well as first editions and their proofs. Relevant information obtained from the composer’s correspondence, his diary, scribes’ receipts, publishers’ accounts, and newspaper reviews is also incorporated. Scholars still have much to discover: which sources survive for a given work and which are lost; how it ended up being published; and what kind of changes were made to the musical text in connection with early performances or during the publication process, for example.   

The editorial work

JSW is based on the study, comparison, and evaluation of all relevant sources. The musical text in the critical edition is based on the main source, chosen from among the available sources following careful study and evaluation. Justified emendations may be made to the text of the main source on the basis of other sources, which could also shed light on questions arising from the musical text.

In addition to the revised musical text, the volumes in the JSW series include an Introduction dealing with relevant issues related to the background of the works, such as their genesis, early performances, publication history, and early reception. The Critical Commentary presents the editorial principles, gives descriptions of the sources and a detailed account of the differences between them, as well as justifies the editorial decisions made in editing the musical text. The volumes also include facsimile pictures of the original sources, and in certain cases also other music appendices. 

The effects of JSW

Many musicians have made noteworthy efforts to correct the errors found in the scores of Sibelius’s works, and in the performance materials, but JSW is the first publication to take advantage of all the sources, even those that were difficult to find, and to form a comprehensive picture of them and of the differences between them. JSW thus provides both scholarly information and a reliable basis for the performance of Sibelius’s oeuvre.  

JSW has had a substantial effect on the music culture in Finland and internationally. Musicians and scholars around the world have been able to acquaint themselves with previously unpublished works by Sibelius, and have gained access to meticulously revised musical texts and to new information. In fact, the JSW series has facilitated the performance, recording, and study of Sibelius’s works – including the rarities – all over the world.  

The JSW project has become the mainstay of the text-critical approach to music in Finland. The know-how and experience gathered within it has been advantageously applied in many other Finnish edition projects.