The 50th Anniversary of the death of the great Finnish composer, Jean Sibelius, is celebrated both in Finland and all over the world this year.
Jean Sibelius died in his beloved home, Ainola, in Järvenpää, Finland at the age of 91 on September 20, 1957. At the time of his death, Jean Sibelius was respected in Finland as our utmost cultural personality and national icon. His music had touched the souls of the Finnish people in a unique way.
Sibelius is buried in the courtyard of his home, Ainola. The funeral service took place in a cathedral in Helsinki, and thousands of people paid their last respects to the composer. When the Sibelius coffin was carried to Järvenpää, people formed a guard of honour at the roadside from the centre of Helsinki to Järvenpää, a distance of 38 km.
Jean Sibelius is widely loved also in Japan, and his legacy is protected by the Sibelius Society of Japan. It is no secret that the former premier of Japan is another great fan of Sibelius. During his visit to Finland to attend an ASEM summit in September 2006, Mr. Junichiro Koizumi visited Ainola and listened to his favorite Andante Festivo played by a chamber orchestra.
Sibelius’ music is played in Japan every year in various concerts, but the 50th anniversary of his death is especially observed. The Sibelius Society together with other actors has arranged a series of concerts both in Tokyo and in other parts of the country:
Pianist Folke Gräsbeck, violinist Madoka Sato, conductor Yuri Nitta and the Yokohama Sinfonietta played Sibelius' famous original Violin Concerto as well as the final version together with the 7th Symphony on September 24 at Kioi Hall in Tokyo. There was a lecture and music event at the Ueno Gakuen Ishibashi Memorial Hall by a piano trio (Gräsbeck, Sato, and chellist Sadao Harada) on September 25. Baritone Jorma Hynninen will give concerts in Sapporo on November 9 and in Tokyo on November 12, as well as Master Courses organised by the Sibelius Society. Sibelius famous Kullervo Symphony will be played at Sumida Triphony Hall in Tokyo on December 22.
The Embassy of Finland in Tokyo also hosted a lecture by Mr.Gräsbeck followed by a reception on September 26. Under the title "An Updated View on Sibelius' Complete works," he talked about the full scope of the great composer's complete works partially according to the perspective of the musicological reserach of today. Mr.Gräsbeck also fascinated the audience with various piano performances of Shibelius' works from his young days to masterpieces such as Finlandia.
On October 11, Mr.Gustav Djupsjöbacka, rector of the Sibelius Academy, gave a lecture at the Ueno Gakuen College. He talked about music education in Finland and about the characteristics of Sibelius Academy such as emphases on hands-on learning and learning by experience. Strengthening the "musical base" starting from even kindergarten is important to nurture great artists, explained Djupsjöbacka. A panel discussion was held after the lecture, hosted by Ms.Haruyo Kubo, professor of Ueno Gakuen College and a board member of the Sibelius Society of Japan. Mr.Jun Takigawa, lecturer at Ueno Gakuen College specialized in music education, Mr.Kazuhide Ikeda, free-lance journalist who reported on the Sibelius Academy several times, Ms.Sae Iida, a pianist who obtained the PhD at the Academy, and Mr.Djupsjöbacka participated in the lively discussion.