Jean Sibelius at Monola and Lake Pielinen
The wedding at Tottesund near Vaasa on 10 June 1892
Jean Sibelius and Aino Järnefelt celebrated their summer wedding on 10 June 1892, in the Maxmo area near Vaasa, at the Tottesund Mansion that the Järnefelt family used as their summerhouse. Jean Sibelius had completed his first large-scale symphonic work in the spring of 1892: the Kullervo suite based on a story from the Karelian and Finnish national epic Kalevala. The premiere of Kullervo convinced Aino Järnefelt’s parents of Sibelius’s composing skills, and Sibelius was given the permission to marry Aino.
The honeymoon trip to Lake Pielinen and Karelia
Jean Sibelius, who had been interested in the national epic Kalevala ever since he was a child, was a central influencer and figure in the group of artists who, inspired by romantic nationalism and national revival, headed towards Karelia and the roots of the national epic to search for inspiration for their work. Jean Sibelius’s visit to Karelia to learn more about Kalevalaic poems and to hear rune-singing and kantele-playing was made possible by a grant of 400 Finnish marks that he received from the University of Helsinki. Sibelius decided to combine this trip and his honeymoon, which he would not have otherwise afforded. That same summer, Aino’s brother, painter Eero Järnefelt, writer Juhani Aho, and Aho’s wife, painter Venny Soldan-Brofeldt, among others, travelled to Koli and Karelia.
Jean and Aino Sibelius went from Vaasa to Lappeenranta by train. Then the young couple visited Imatra to admire the city’s famous attraction, the roaring Imatrankoski rapids. They continued by water to Joensuu, where Sibelius borrowed a square piano for his composing work during the trip. Jean and Aino took the inland waterway vessel Walio and on 18 June at 4 a.m. arrived at the Lieksa Harbour, located on the shore by a church designed by Carl Ludwig Engel, and a bell tower.
The honeymoon at Monola, Lieksa, 18 June to 17 July 1892
Jean and Aino were directed to their place of accommodation, the Monola house in Lieksa, seven kilometres from the church village, by Celina von Fieandt, who was originally from the Sarkkila mansion in Lieksa and had moved back to the area. Her late husband had been a good friend of Sibelius’s father during their time in Hämeenlinna. Celina lived in her own house at the modern-day address Pielisentie 36.
From the Lieksa Harbour to Monola, Jean and Aino took two rowing boats: the boats had been tied together and they both carried the square piano Jean had borrowed. At the shore of the Monola house, the guests were received by the host himself, Olli Vartiainen.
The Monola house from the time of Sibeliuses’ honeymoon burned down in 1948. The modern-day house was built on the same spot. The building is in private use.
According to oral tradition, Jean and Aino stayed at the timbered granary of the Monola house during their honeymoon on the shore of Lake Pielinen. The building remains to this day and is open to the public. The granary was probably used for temporary accommodation for travellers even before Sibeliuses’ honeymoon. According to an estimate by the Finnish Heritage Agency, it already was a log-framed grain storage building with two storeys at the time, and it probably had room for accommodation both upstairs and downstairs.
The tangible cultural heritage of Sibeliuses’ honeymoon is still present in the original robust logs of the Monola granary and in the same lakeside view that opens from the Monolanniemi headland to the hills of Koli. The spiritual cultural heritage of the honeymoon is alive and well in the music that was created in Monola and that can still be heard today.
Monola in Jean Sibelius’s music
During their honeymoon, Sibelius composed three songs to poems by Johan Ludvig Runeberg: Kyssens hopp (Kiss's Hope) Op. 13 No. 2, Till Frigga (To Frigga) Op. 13 No. 6, and Under strandens granar ('Neath the Fir Trees) Op. 13 No. 1, among other pieces. In addition, Sibelius was composing a tone poem for orchestra, En saga (A Fairy Tale) Op. 9. It wasn’t until 17 years later that Sibelius conquered the hills of Koli that he saw from Monola across Lake Pielinen. He started working on his Symphony No. 4 soon after visiting Koli.
Sibelius found only “weak traces” of rune-singing in the Pielisjärvi area. The composer was more impressed by the kantele-playing in the area. Sibelius got some twenty melodies from Mikko Tolvanen, who lived at Monola as a lodger, and Sibelius considered a few of them good.
From Lieksa and Joensuu to Karelia
After spending a rainy but happy honeymoon at Monola on the shore of Lake Pielinen, Jean and Aino Sibelius travelled from Lieksa to Joensuu on 17 July on the same Walio boat that brought them. They also returned the piano in Joensuu.
From Joensuu, Aino Sibelius took an inland waterway vessel to Savonlinna and then to Kuopio to visit her relatives. Jean Sibelius followed the steps of his artist friends and went further into Karelia, via Ilomantsi and Wärtsilä, to meet rune-singers in Korpiselkä. He travelled on horseback and on foot. In Mysysvaara in Korpiselkä, Sibelius heard rune-singing by Pedri Shemeikka, among others. Sibelius was impressed by Shemeikka’s rune-singing in particular. Quite soon after his trip to Karelia, Sibelius composed Impromptu Op. 5 No. 5 for piano, and the Karelia music for orchestra. In Impromptu, you can hear impressions from Lake Pielinen, and the kantele-playing Sibelius heard in Karelia.
Hufvudstadsbladet, Karjalatar, Päivälehti, and Wasa Tidning 1892. Available at
Lieksan Lehti 17 Dec 1955, 7 Mar 2009, 14 May 2009.
Martiskainen, Jouko: Janne ja Aino. Muistelmia ja havaintoja matkasta Karjalaan. Häämatkan vaiheita ja tapahtumia vuodelta 1892. Exhibition materials. The exhibition was held at the Lieksa Library in Rauhala 17.4.–15.5.2015, at the Joensuu Main Library 1.–19.12.2015 , and the second time at the Lieksa Library in July 2017. The author has complemented the information on 24 November 2019.
Aino Sibeliuksen kirjeitä Järnefelt-suvun jäsenille. Second edition. Edited by SuviSirkku Talas. SKS:n toimituksia 756. Gummerus, Jyväskylä 2000.
Levas, Santeri: Jean Sibelius. Muistelma suuresta ihmisestä. WSOY, Porvoo and Juva 1986.
Monolan aitta, Jean Sibelius ja Vartiaiset. Information collected by M. Asomäki. Vartiaisten Viesti 1/2016.
Tawastsjerna, Erik: Jean Sibelius I. 2. re-ed. Otava, Keuruu 1989.
Tawastsjerna, Erik: Sibelius. Edited by Erik T. Tawastsjerna, Otava, Keuruu 1997.
Sibelius and Kaski – master and apprentice on the shores of Lake Pielinen
Daniel Kaski (1844–1916) served as the cantor of the Pielisjärvi parish when Sibelius visited the area, and Kaski’s son Heino was 7 years old at the time. You could imagine that the visit of a famous composer in the region influenced the demanding career choice of composer Heino Kaski (1885–1957). The young Heino probably at least heard people talking about Sibelius’s visit, and it’s also possible that the local gentry met with the maestro. In any case, Kaski’s and Sibelius’ paths crossed later.
Heino Kaski received private composing lessons from Jean Sibelius. Kaski mentioned in 1945 in a book edited by Sulho Ranta:
“From time to time, I did get – – the honour of visiting Tuusula to present my scribbles to maestro Jean Sibelius himself, who was very understanding of my struggles and guided me with his incomparable advice. He also understood my financial difficulties, and occasionally even deigned to give me a discreet but very welcome penny from his vest pocket. Mainly thanks to his referral, I was granted my first government scholarship in September 1911, and I, in fact, continued to receive these scholarships four years in a row.” Kaski studied composing in Berlin with the support of the scholarship.
The Pielinen Museum archives in Lieksa include a paper as a proof from those times: this paper contains sheet music and Heino Kaski’s handwritten note: “Sheet music written by Jean Sibelius on the 14th of December 1910, when he taught me about the sonata form.”
Besides their many encounters, Sibelius and Kaski were both inspired by Lake Pielinen and share a common fate: their date of death on 20 September 1957.
Text: Elli Oinonen-Edén
Pielinen Museum archives.
Eskelinen, Liisa: Heino Kaski – pielisjärveläinen säveltäjä. Matkailuoppaan peruskurssi (basic training course for tourist guides), Lieksa. 26 Apr 2005. Pielinen Museum archives.
Kaski, Heino – Karila, Tauno: Heino Kaski. Suomen säveltäjiä II, pages 7–14. Edited by Einari Marvia. WSOY, Porvoo 1966.
Salmenhaara, Erkki: Kansallisromantiikan valtavirta 1885–1918, pages 325–329. Suomen musiikin historia 2. WSOY, Helsinki 1996.
Pictures of Heino Kaski: Pielinen Museum
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