Turku is Finland’s oldest city, former capital, and third largest city. Therefore, it is full of history. One museum that I visited while I was in Turku was the Sibelius Museum (officially spelled the Swedish way: Sibeliusmuseum). Both the Sibelius Museum and the music notation software, Sibelius, are named after Jean Sibelius, Finland’s most famous composer. Although the Sibelius Museum does have a permanent exhibit about Sibelius, and does house his archival papers, the Museum is also known as Finland’s largest musical instrument museum.
Most of the exhibit space at the Sibelius Museum displays approximately 2,000 musical instruments, some of which date back to the 1700s. The majority of these instruments are European and include the Finnish kantele (a type of zither) and the Finnish square piano. However, African and Asian instruments are also represented at the Museum. I enjoyed walking around the Museum and looking at the different instruments while learning more about them from their signs. I believe that the signs were in Finnish, English, and possibly Swedish.
The back part of the Museum displays the exhibit about Jean Sibelius. Included in this space are some of his personal belongings, music scores, and photos. You can also listen to some of his music by putting on the different headphones that are there. Finlandia, composed in 1899, is probably his most famous piece. Several Christian hymns use its melody.
From the Museum, I learned that Sibelius was an interesting character. He was born to a Swedish-speaking family in 1865 and, as a young man, changed his name from “Johan” to the French variant, “Jean.” When his hair started to thin, he decided to shave it all off and consequently reinvent his public image. Sadly, Sibelius was known to be a heavy drinker and smoker. However, his most productive years were when he paused from drinking after having an operation to remove his throat cancer in 1907. Despite the cancer, he managed to live for fifty more years. I was not able to visit, but about a two-hour drive west of Turku is Sibelius’ home, Ainola, which is also a museum.
If you liked this post, you may also be interested in my post about the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, Arizona.
Sources and Further Reading
“The Collection of Musical Instruments.” Sibeliusmuseum. https://sibeliusmuseum.fi/en/the-collection-of-musical-instruments/ (accessed June 11, 2021).
Encyclopaedia Britannica, s.v. “Jean Sibelius.” Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2021. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Jean-Sibelius (accessed June 11, 2021).
“Jean Sibelius.” Sibeliusmuseum. https://sibeliusmuseum.fi/en/jean-sibelius/ (accessed June 11, 2021).
McGuire, Patric.”Sibelius, That High-Functioning Drunkard.” Soundfly. https://flypaper.soundfly.com/discover/sibelius-high-functioning-drunkard/ (accessed June 11, 2021).
Tarja M. “Jean Sibelius – Finlandia.” YouTube, July 23, 2012. Video, 9:36. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F5zg_af9b8c (accessed June 11, 2021).
“Turku Cathedral.” Kiss My Turku. https://kissmyturku.com/kohdekortit/turku-cathedral (accessed June 11, 2021).
“Visit Ainola – Home of Aino and Jean Sibelius.” Visit Finland. https://www.visitfinland.com/mystay/product/visit-ainola-home-of-aino-and-jean-sibelius/15184/ (accessed June 11, 2021).