Everyone wants a piece of Jean Sibelius (1865–1957). And why not? After all, he has remained one of the internationally best-known Finns of all time for a century – substantially longer than, say, champion athletes who enter and exit the global limelight on a far shorter timescale. His music is being played, sung and recorded time and time again, and up until recent years some of his symphonies consistently outperformed Finnish worldwide hits by acts such as The Rasmus and Darude in terms of copyright royalties generated.
Several cities in Finland can rightfully lay claim to him: Hämeenlinna because he was born there, Järvenpää because he lived there for most of his life, and Helsinki because his best-known works were premiered there.
But Jean Sibelius, known as Janne in his youth, also had musical roots in Turku. It was here that Mathias Åkerberg, his father’s mother’s father, played violin and cello with the Turku Musical Society in the early years of their orchestral activities – which subsequently evolved into what is now the Turku Philharmonic – in the late 18th century. More recently, his paternal uncle Pehr Sibelius was a person of influence in Turku, and Uncle Pehr was also the closest thing that Janne had to a male role model, having lost his father at an early age. In their correspondence, which was frequent up until Pehr’s death in 1890, Janne described him as “my father’s replacement here on earth”.