Would Sibelius Lie To You – Answers


  1. Lie. Christie did compare her writing to ‘an incredible sausage machine’, but that was in an interview for the New York Daily News. Agatha Christie was apparently fond of Sibelius’s music, and his name is mentioned in her book The Clocks.
  2. True, according to Katarina Ilves (née Sibelius), Muistoja lapsen ja valkeahapsen, 1982–83, interviewed by Maire Pulkkinen.
  3. Lie. Marta Hiltunen, from Joensuu, did perish on the Titanic, but she was not related to Sibelius. She was a second-class passenger travelling with a friend and the friend’s young son, both of whom survived.
  4. True. Elin Ailama ‘Aili’ Järnefelt (1870-1953), who played the kantele, was in a train accident in Antrea, north of Viipuri and lost both her legs. Soon afterwards, Sibelius composed two kantele pieces for her (Moderato, JS 130, and Dolcissimo, JS 63).
  5. True. Sibelius forgot to bring the necklace to the wedding. Aino did, however, use it at numerous later weddings that she attended. The gift of a necklace reflects a custom among affluent families in France whereby this type of jewellery was often given by the bridegroom to the bride.
  6. True. According to Ruth Snellman (née Sibelius), in the summer of 1939 a group of Americans turned up in the yard without any prior notice. Warned by the maid, Sibelius managed to retreat upstairs, but Aino had to hide in the sauna.
  7. Lie. The Postal Manifesto of 12 June 1890, issued by Alexander III, resulted in the disappearance of Finland’s own postage stamps (initially for post within the Russian Empire, later for other letters too), but Sibelius didn’t keep any stockpile.
  8. Lie. There is a (presumably) coincidental similarity between the opening and closing bars of the Elves’ song from A Midsummer Night’s Dream (‘Bunte Schlangen, zweigezüngt’) and the Musette from King Christian II, and Sibelius was a great admirer of Mendelssohn, but the diary entry is entirely fictional.
  9. True. It was sent by the architect and amateur singer Torkel Nordman from Pori. In Swedish such a leg of lamb is known as a ‘fårfiol’ – a ‘lamb fiddle’ – and Nordman rightly guessed that nobody would be curious if Sibelius were to be sent a violin! In return Sibelius sent Nordman a new song, Fridolins dårskap (Fridolin’s Folly, JS 84).
  10. True. Until he was almost 50 Sibelius remained slim, although after that he started to put on weight. On a visit to Ainola, sitting at the lunch table, Carpelan seized Sibelius’s hand and shouted: ‘Not a single potato more!’ Sibelius lost his temper and after a heated argument Carpelan got up and left the house.
  11. True. Shortly before Ainola was built, Anni Åström, the teetotal lady of the house at Vanhakylä Manor on the western shore of Lake Tuusula, did not want to rent accommodation to the composer who had appeared, clearly inebriated, in Axel Gallén’s painting Symposium, which had caused quite a scandal.
  12. Lie. Aino designed the sauna but it was actually built by the Sibelius family’s usual builder, Rikhard Laine.
  13. Lie. But in 1885 Sibelius and von Konow had worked on a chamber piece called Ljunga Wirginia, which was referred to as an opera even though no trace of vocal parts or text have been found.
  14. True – at least if we believe the letter from Sibelius to his uncle Pehr from 3 October 1889: ‘I have now already become a real Berliner, although I don’t drink beer. The doctors have forbidden it.’
  15. True. This unusually eccentric interpretation was published in the 1935 Christmas special of the Finnish cultural journal Forum.

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