All four of Sibelius’s String Quartets published as a critical edition in the collected works of Jean Sibelius

Date published
Sibelius första och sista stråkkvartetter.

The time lapse between Sibelius’s first (JS 184, 1885 at left) and last (Op. 56, 1909 at right) String Quartets is 24 years, which shows in the autograph manuscripts.


Sibelius composed his first string quartet (E-flat major, JS 184) for home music-making in the summer of 1885, before he started his studies at the Helsinki Music Institute. His next quartet (A minor, JS 183) was the work that marked the completion of his studies in 1889, and it was performed at the Institute’s soiree. He composed the third quartet (B-flat major, Op. 4) a good year after this, and some movements were performed more than once, most recently in 1915.

The fourth and last one (Voces intimae, Op. 56) was composed almost two decades later, in 1909. Many people thought this was Sibelius’s only string quartet, possibly because it was the only one to be printed and recorded during his lifetime.

Co-editor of the volume, conductor Pekka Helasvuo, points out “an interesting change of rhythm in the third movement that is likely to draw the players’ attention”. According to the editor of the volume, Tuija Wicklund, “Sibelius struggled with the ending of the quartet, and he even changed it during the publication process. The new edition contains both the earlier version and an earlier correction he planned to make in it”.

Sibelius was very happy with the result. As he declared to his wife Aino when he finished the Quartet: “It became wonderful. Just the kind that raises a smile on one’s face even at the moment of death.”


The Jean Sibelius Works project began in 1996. The aim is to publish Sibelius’s production in its entirety in editions based on a thorough study of all surviving sources. The latest volume is the 37th in the series. Jean Sibelius Works is published by the National Library of Finland, the Sibelius Society of Finland, and the publishing house Breitkopf & Härtel (Wiesbaden).

Tuija Wicklund
Jean Sibelius Works
The National Library of Finland
Box 15, 00014 University of Helsinki
Tel. +358 2 941 24091