Taking a break . . . with Armas Järnefelt and Jean Sibelius

Loviisa, Finland

Loviisa, Finland

Enjoy the waning days of summer. See you sometime in September.

Listening List

On Spotify

Armas Järnefelt (1869-1958), Praeludium and Berceuse (1904)

Järnefelt came from a family that has had an exceptional impact on the cultural history of Finland. His parents were confirmed members of the Finnish-minded faction, and his mother in particular, Elisabeth Clodt von Jürgensburg, who came from a Baltic baronial family, supported young Finnish artists in many ways. Armas was not the only child to leave his mark on the Finnish arts scene: his brother Arvid became a major novelist, and his brother Eero became an important painter. His sister Aino married his fellow student Jean Sibelius. [citation]

Jean Sibelius (1865-1957), Piano trio in C major, “Loviisa trio”, for violin, cello and piano (1888)

Jean Sibelius composed a considerable amount of chamber music during his years at the Helsinki Music Institute. He concealed a certain amount of it from his teacher Martin Wegelius, whose stylistic ideals did not entirely correspond to the thoughts of the young composer. Sibelius felt less constrained during the summer, when he composed piano trios. These he also referred to according to the places of their composition; hence we have the “Havträsk”, “Korpo” and “Loviisa” trios. Of these, the sunny and unproblematic Loviisa trio is the one performed most frequently. [citation]

On YouTube

Armas Järnefelt




Credits: The quotations may be found at the links cited in the post. The photographs, as always on the blog unless otherwise indicated, are mine.

Loviisa, Finland

Loviisa, Finland

More Scenes from the King’s Road: Kotka to Porvoo

Czar's Fishing Lodge, Drawing Room

Czar’s Fishing Lodge, Drawing Room

The more I learn, the less I know. Finland’s story, as for any country, is varied and complex, and my understandings are necessarily incomplete. I stand at the fence and peer through its slats, conscious that I see only fragments, not the whole. Here is a second set of fragments from the King’s Road. Continue reading

Scenes from the King’s Road: Virolahti and Hamina

Salpa Bunkers

Salpa Bunkers

I will show you a way
that I have travelled.

—Eeva-Liisa Manner

In the middle ages, the King’s Road, now primarily a tourist attraction, was “Finland’s most important route.” [Baedeker’s Finland Guide 234]

Although rarely traveled by kings, the King’s Road was used by diplomats, couriers, and ordinary travelers. . . . [and] maintained by royal decree. The road was imperative for communication between the kings and queens of the Baltic nations. . . . Land along the road would be given to those loyal to the crown so that it would always be preserved. . . . little villages and hamlets sprung up to support international commerce – medieval style. [The King's Road in Finland 2]

Our thought was to rent a car in Helsinki and meander, looking in on towns in the countryside along the way. The question was, in the time we had, should we head east toward the Russian border, or west, toward the archipelago outside Turku? Only in our household, perhaps, would the decision end up turning on two things, both to the east: Loviisa, with its wooden Old Town and connection to Jean Sibelius, and Virolahti, part of the 1200-kilometer Salpalinjan (Salpa Line) Bunkers along the Finnish-Russian border. We headed east. Continue reading

In Tallinn

Tallinn Old Town

Tallinn Old Town

Just outside the walls of Tallinn’s medieval Old Town stands a high-rise hotel with a bleak, functional design. When it opened in 1972, it was Estonia’s first skyscraper and the largest hotel in the Baltics. The local joke, that the hotel was “made of micro-concrete, as in concrete and microphones,” was in fact no joke.  The top floor contained a radio center, not discovered until 1994, from which the KGB spied on hotel guests. Continue reading


View of 26th Estonian Song Celebration from where I stood (lower right in hat and vest) (Photograph by J. Holford)

View of 26th Estonian Song Celebration from where I stood (lower right in hat and vest) (Photograph by J. Holford)

It must be somewhere, the original harmony . . .
—Juhan Liiv

When we first decided on a trip to Helsinki, we didn’t know that Tallinn, Estonia, was so nearby. Nor did we know, when we first arranged our schedule, that our arrival in Tallinn coincided with the last day of the 26th Estonian Song Celebration, a storied national event held once every five years. I was able to get two tickets, on the grass. Whether we could actually attend was open to doubt, but at least we’d have a chance. Continue reading