I'm revising the Sibelius chapter of my book, and feeling awe again for the incidental music to The Tempest, which Sibelius wrote just before the end of his composing career. A few years ago, Osmo Vänskä made a remarkable recording of the complete score for BIS; it shows us a composer working at the very limits of his art, looking into beautifully depopulated musical spaces ("The Storm," "Miranda Lulled To Slumber," "Full Fathom Five") that no one else had ever seen. There is a shadow opera here, perhaps the greatest Shakespeare opera never written. The cue entitled "Ariel Brings the Foes to Prospero" is a precise counterpart to the magician's great speech of renunciation, "Ye elves of hills, brooks, standing lakes, and groves..."; the fearsome dissonances of the opening section suggest the dimming of the noontide sun, while the resigned final section shows Prospero drowning his book and abjuring his magic.
My scores of the Tempest suites once belonged to the English composer Howard Ferguson, who died in 1999. I looked him up in Grove and found this summary of his achievement: "Modest though his output was, it involved very few miscalculations and no outright failures." May we all be so lucky.