Seattle, WA – A major highlight of the Seattle Symphony’s 2014–2015 season is Luminous Landscapes: The Sibelius Symphonies, a three-week festival from March 12–28, led by Danish conductor Thomas Dausgaard in his first year as Principal Guest Conductor. The festival, which commemorates the 150th Anniversary of Jean Sibelius’ birth with performances including all seven of the composer’s symphonies, the Violin Concerto and Finlandia, is the most extensive festival of Sibelius’ music this year in the U.S., and one of a very small number of orchestras worldwide presenting the complete Sibelius symphonic cycle this season.

Executive Director Simon Woods said, “We are thrilled to be holding one of the major celebrations in the world of the extraordinary symphonic legacy of Sibelius. These works are among the profoundest in the symphonic repertoire, and the chance to experience this extraordinary journey from the stirring First Symphony through to the exalted and enigmatic Seventh, will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many people. And we will be in the best possible hands with Thomas Dausgaard — a musician who has a tremendous affinity for Sibelius’ music — as our guide.”

Thomas Dausgaard, who takes up his post as Principal Guest Conductor with these concerts shared, “For many years it has been a special joy to make music with the wonderful Seattle Symphony. It is a great honor for me that our first project together in my new role will be a fusion of the two great S’s: Seattle and Sibelius! A cycle of Sibelius’ symphonies is always a big event. His music shows us what a transcendental instrument an orchestra can be — stimulating our imagination, sensitivity and intellect, as well as our love for music! I look forward to sharing these qualities with musicians and music lovers over the coming seasons.”

In Seattle, the festival is presented in partnership with the Nordic Heritage Museum which will present Finland: Designed Environments, also opening March 12 and continuing until July 26. Finnish U.S. ambassador Ritva Koukku-Ronde will attend both the opening of the exhibit and the festival, Luminous Landscapes: The Sibelius Symphonies. The Finlandia Foundation will send a delegation to Seattle for the opening, and Finlandia Foundation President Ossi Rahkonen will bestow the foundation’s inaugural Award of Excellence to the Orchestra.

The Seattle Symphony has also invited guest speakers for festival-related events, Ruusamari Teppo, great-granddaughter of Jean Sibelius, joined by Finnish cellist Jussi Makkonen, and Michael Beckerman, Professor of Music at New York University. The festival performances of the Sibelius symphonic cycle will stream online on Classical KING FM’s “Symphonic Channel” via www.king.org for a 24-hour period following the festival on March 29, beginning at 12 a.m. Pacific Time.

The first week of the festival includes Sibelius’ first two symphonies and his rousing symphonic poem Finlandia on March 12 and 14. On March 13, Finlandia and Symphony No. 2 will be performed as part of the Symphony Untuxed series, followed by a post-concert performance by local Nordic choruses in the Samuel & Althea Stroum Grand Lobby. Also that weekend, musicians from the Seattle Symphony will perform Sibelius’ String Quartet in D minor, “Voces intimae,” Sonata in E major for Violin and Piano, and Piano Quintet in G minor on March 15 in the Illsley Ball Nordstrom Recital Hall as part of the Chamber series.

The symphonic cycle continues March 19, 21 and 22 with performances of Sibelius’ Third and Fourth symphonies, as well as the virtuosic Violin Concerto with Finnish violinist Pekka Kuusisto who makes his Seattle Symphony debut at these concerts. On March 21, Kuusisto will also give a post-concert solo performance in the Grand Lobby where he will perform on electronic violin and use other electronics to create multi-layered improvisations of Finnish dance tunes and well-loved folk songs from the 1700s.

The festival concludes with Symphonies Nos. 5, 6 and 7 on March 26 and 28. Following the March 26 performance, sopranos and pianists Maria Mannisto and Christina Siemens will perform a program of Sibelius’ songs in the S. Mark Taper Foundation Auditorium.

The Nordic Heritage Museum in Seattle will present Finland: Designed Environmentsfrom March 12–July 26, 2015Finland: Designed Environments looks at the explosion of creativity in Finnish design over the last 15 years. Examples of furnishings, fashion and craft, as well as architecture and urbanism, illustrate how nearly every aspect of Finnish life incorporates thoughtful design thinking — from city streets and summer homes to fashion and food — and is marked by sensitivity to form and material. The exhibition is the first significant U.S. museum presentation since the 1990s to examine contemporary Finnish design.

Jean Sibelius played an instrumental role in the emergence of modern-day Finland as a classical music superpower, with Helsinki at its center. Finland’s connection with Seattle runs deep: once Alaska transferred to the U.S. in the mid-1800s, some of the resident Finns moved down to communities developing along the northwest coastline, including Seattle. Seattle has continued to be a popular place for those of Nordic heritage to reside in the U.S., with 12% of King County residents claiming Nordic heritage. There are many cultural and lifestyle affinities between Seattle and Nordic countries, including fishing, boating, biking and heightened eco-awareness. Sibelius’ music is profoundly rooted in landscape, for example lakes and pine forests, similar to the Pacific Northwest of the U.S.

Concert tickets start at $17 and may be purchased at seattlesymphony.org, by calling the Seattle Symphony Ticket Office at (206) 215-4747(206) 215-4747, or by visiting the Ticket Office in Benaroya Hall, located on the corner of Union Street and Third Avenue. Ticket Office hours are Monday through Friday, 10 a.m.–6 p.m., and Saturday, 1–6 p.m. Tickets may also be purchased through the Seattle Symphony’s iPhone and Android apps.

For a worldwide schedule of events celebrating Jean Sibelius, please visit www.sibelius150.org.