Studies, and the composition of Kullervo, 1885–92

The addresses of the residences in Helsinki, Berlin, Vienna and Loviisa.

  • 1. Kaivopuisto 19, Helsinki
  • 2. Kaivopuisto 22, Helsinki
  • Marienstrasse 4, Berlin
  • Magdeburgerstrasse 31, Berlin
  • Kurfürstenstrasse 40, Berlin
  • Waaggasse 1 II St.1.14,
  • Sibeliuksenkatu
    10, Loviisa
  • 3. Ullanlinna bathing establishment, Helsinki

1.-2. Villas 19 and 22 in Kaivopuisto, HelsinkiDistrict IX, Quarters 19 and 22

Sibelius spent the first summers of his student years in the archipelago of southwest Finland, in Houtskär and Korpo, where he wrote the "Korpo" trio in the summer of 1886. The following five summers were spent mainly in Loviisa and its surroundings. The "Loviisa" trio started to take shape in the summer of 1888.

Marienstrasse 4-Magdeburgerstrasse 31-Kurfürstenstrasse 40, Berlin 1889-90

On 10th September 1889 Sibelius arrived in Berlin to begin his studies abroad (see Biography and Sibelius's journeys). With the help of Werner Söderhjelm he managed to find a room near the university, but his stay in Marienstrasse 4 was short-lived. His Alsatian host family were boisterous and often took to singing over a glass.

To the south of Tiergarten, at Magdeburgerstrasse 31, Sibelius found a quieter room, but a noisier environment. Many music students and friends – and especially Adolf Paul – were living nearby since there were several conservatories in the neighbourhood.

In December there was a break in his Bohemian life. Ferruccio Busoni took Sibelius with him to Leipzig, and Christmas was spent quietly with the Söderhjelms in Louisenstrasse. However, from the turn of the year life continued in the same merry way as before.

At the beginning of February Sibelius, who had spent all his travelling funds, moved a few blocks away from his companions. It is not known whether the Bernhardt family charged a lower rent than their predecessor, but Sibelius continued to live in Kurfürstenstrasse until June. At Kurfürstenstrasse 40 he completed his Piano Quintet in G minor, the main work of his Berlin year.

Waaggasse 1, Vienna, 1890-91

Waaggasse 1: Sibelius had the best room within a 68 square metre apartment on the second floor.

On 25th October 1890 Sibelius arrived in Vienna to continue his studies (see also Biography and Sibelius's travels abroad). He obtained a sub-let room after a couple of days. It was on the first floor at the back of the yard on Waaggasse 1. The Hungarian landlord charged 20 guldens for the room and 8 guldens more for the use of a grand piano. The apartment was good but very cold. The stove had to be heated frequently.

Sibelius described the room in a letter to his bride: "My room is quite large, it has two windows, and it is very high. There is a grand piano in the middle of the floor; all my music is on the piano, quite a pile. The shabby furniture comprises two armchairs and a sofa. Between the windows there is a small trumeau mirror, which is the most elegant item in the room apart from the washbasin. There are also 2 cupboards, 3 tables, a bed and a cane chair which I have acquired to toughen myself up. On the stove there is a clay figure of a saint. The windows face the yard. The house has 5 floors.”

The apartment saw the beginning of a "Finnish" style of music that Sibelius was developing, inspired by Kalevala and its rhythms. In this apartment Sibelius completed the song Drömmen, the Overture in E major, Scène de Ballet and the first notes of Kullervo in the spring of 1891.

10, Loviisa

The present Sibelius house as it was in the 19th century.

In June 1891 Sibelius returned to the house in Loviisa. He worked on Kullervo until the end of January. The house was sold the following summer after the death of Aunt Evelina.

3. Ullanlinna bathing establishment, Helsinki, District IX

In the spring of 1892 Sibelius lived in a rented apartment in the Ullanlinna bathing establishment, where he put the finishing touches to Kullervo, the work with which he was to achieve his breakthrough. Juhani Aho came to see him and said later: "He had found a peaceful and remote working place for writing it [Kullervo]. He was living at the Kaivopuisto bathing establishment, where he had a table, a grand piano, a bed and a few chairs in a great hall which was full of tobacco smoke. On his best working days he does not remember to eat or drink; a strong cigar is enough to keep up his powers."