Almost all Finns report that their favourite place is some special nature site. For Jean Sibelius, the great Finnish composer, this place may have been Koli.
In 1892, Jean Sibelius had a burning desire to go to Karelia. His Kullervo symphony had premiered in the spring and become his international breakthrough. Because of his success, the 26-year-old composer got general Alexander Järnefelt’s permission to marry his daughter Aino. Despite the success of Kullervo, Sibelius could not afford a wedding trip. He applied for a travel grant to go to Karelia to study Kalevala poetry. This trip would also become the newly-weds’ honeymoon, says Jussi Makkonen, the only cello artist in the world whose main employment is to play music by Sibelius.
The master returns
Sibelius came back to lake Pielinen and Koli once more, 17 years after the wedding trip. He had been through some hard times. In addition to money trouble, his health had become frail. A tumour was found in the master’s throat, and he travelled to Berlin to get it removed. Amidst all this worry, Sibelius recalled lake Pielinen and Koli, which he wanted to see again. Although he travelled abroad more than 40 times, seeing the majestic fells of Koli was one of the highlights of his life.
– Atop Koli hill, Sibelius recalls his past life. His worries and the fear of death are never far. The experience as a whole makes a tremendous impression: there is an autumn storm, hail, a dark sky over lake Pielinen, and a moonlit boat trip, Makkonen narrates.