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Where Sibelius Fell Silent

The stove, made at the local brickworks, is chunky and rustic, with a glistening green finish (Sibelius saw colours as keys: green was F major, yellow D major). I bent down and tried to open the small steel doors, to see exactly where all that potential music had turned to ash. But they were screwed shut—not, it transpired, out of any piety, rather because in the years of Aino's widowhood the stove had been converted to electricity. Electricity also powered the library's shiny walnut-cased radiogram which the head of Philips gave Sibelius in the early 1950s. This was the last of a series of such instruments on which, all through the three decades of his personal silence, music had come into Ainola from Berlin, London, Paris and New York. Or from just 40 kilometres away. At the exact time Sibelius lay dying, on September 20th 1957, the Helsinki City Orchestra was playing his Fifth Symphony under Sir Malcolm Sargent. Naturally, the concert was being broadcast on Finnish radio, and Aino later recalled that she had been tempted to turn on the radiogram, in the hope that her husband's music might bring him back to consciousness; but in the end, she decided not to.

In his last year, Sibelius wrote in his diary:

The swans are always on my mind, and they lend magnificence to life. It is strange to note that nothing in the whole world, not in art, literature or music, has such an effect on me as these swans and cranes and bean geese. Their calls and their appearance.

If you stand in the grounds of Ainola today you are more likely to hear the steady thrum of traffic from a nearby road than the honk and wail of any passing wildlife. But the place retains its magic as a meeting-point of high art and practical living, of musical fame and apple-peeling machines, of conjured sounds and final silence. 



Source: The Economist
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