Sibelius composed Sandels in 1898 for a composition competition for which he won a prize. The first performance of the work took place in Helsinki on March 16, 1900. The text is based on a poem about Count Johan August Sandels, a real life commander of the Swedish Army in the early nineteenth century. The poem depicts Sandels’ defeat of the Russian Army in 1808 during the Russo-Finnish War. The victory made Sandels a hero; however, the poem tells the story in a rather comical manner, which is reflected in Sibelius’ composition.