Early May I was hosting a group of music lovers from the U.S. We spent two days in and around Helsinki, diving into the turn of the last century and the events in Finland leading to our independency from the Russian empire. A given name in this period of time is Jean Sibelius, our national composer.
So we visited also Ainola, the home of Jean Sibelius and his family in Jarvenpaa, thirty kilometers north of Helsinki. Lars Sonck designed the house in the early 20th century in national romantic style.
Sibelius lived in this house for more than fifty years. Both he and his wife Aino are buried in the garden, in the sunniest spot where they often had their morning coffee. Children from a kindergarten nearby had recently visited and left a wreath on the grave:
One of the American group members was Simon, a pianist, and his long time dream had been to play on Sibelius´ piano. This came true today ! Here he is playing a Sibelius piano sonata and you can see that even the Ainola guide is shivering with goose bumps – as did we all. An unforgettable moment
The guest reception room of Ainola. Jean Sibelius was presented with the piano by his fans and supporters for his 50-year birthday in 1915. The Sonata Simon plays was composed in 1916 so it was with the same piano!
Here I am discussing with Simon by the staircase- full of admiration as you can see!
After visiting Ainola we travelled back to Helsinki to visit the Finland100 year exhibition at Villa Gyllenberg. It is a private collection housed in the home of the businessman Ane Gyllenberg and his wife Signe.
The exhibition includes this very famous (at least in Finland!) painting by Aksel Gallen-Kallela, a painter and close friend of Sibelius. The name is “Symposion” and it created a something close to a scandal in 1894 when it was painted. The painting shows Akseli Gallen-Kallela himself on the left side, Sibelius on the right hand side next to Robert Kajanus, a friend, composer and conductor. The person next to Gallen-Kallela could be Oskar Merikanto, another national romantic composer of this time
An interesting detail in this painting is the background. Gallen-Kallela painted this painting call Ad Astra the same year, 1894. The symbolism varies according to the onlooker- the story of Aino in the Kalevala comes close, as does the period when it was painted: the end of the Russian rule in Finland. This original painting is part of the Gyllenberg collection
Villa Gyllenberg is worth a visit. Close to the downtown area, in a lovely setting on the Kuusisaari Island.