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The Philadelphia Orchestra’s visit to Ainola in 1955, with its conductor Eugene Ormandy. On the left of the porch, Jean Sibelius next to Eugene Ormandy.


A traditional visitors’ book was not maintained at Ainola. Memories of the numerous visitors were, however, kept in the form of assorted congratulatory greetings, record sleeves and so on – or even written on the bottom of a chair. The best records of who visited Ainola were kept by the housemaid Aino Kari, who carefully noted prominent visitors in her diary. Visits had a significant impact on household work, so Aino Kari also wrote down what was served to each guest.

The singer Marian Anderson (1897–1993), who visited Ainola in 1933, remembered: ‘I sang several of Sibelius’s songs to him, and at the end he got up and strode towards me, put his arms around me and hugged me fondly. “My ceiling is too low for you”, said Sibelius and then called out to his wife in a loud voice: “Not coffee – champagne!”’

The violinist Isaac Stern (1920–2001) visited Ainola at least twice. In 1951 he came to Ainola to take the composer’s advice about Sibelius’s Violin Concerto and how best to perform it. During the visit the original intention was for Stern to play just extracts from the concerto, as a demonstration, but in the end he played the entire work, with Sibelius accompanying him in some passages on the piano. The host and his guest got on so well that the visit dragged on longer than planned, and Stern had to hire a private plane to Paris in order not to be late for his concert there the following evening. The last time Stern visited Ainola was in September 1997.

From time to time the Sibelius family had to serve as a sort of unofficial state ‘host’, when a visit to Ainola was part of the itinerary of state visits. When King Gustaf V of Sweden made a state visit to Finland in 1925, Aino Sibelius was also invited to accompany the queen. To commemorate this, at Ainola there is a signed photograph of Queen Viktoria. Even today Ainola is visited by many a official guest of the Finnish state. The mood of such visits can become very informal and congenial if it turns out that the distinguished guest has a genuine personal interest in Sibelius and Ainola.

International visitors to Ainola through the decades:
Wilhelm Kempff, pianist, 1922
Marian Anderson, singer, 1933
Serge Koussevitzky, conductor, and the Boston Symphony Orchestra, 1935
Harriet Cohen, pianist, 1936
Yousuf Karsh, photographer, 1949
Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, singer, 1951
Sir Thomas Beecham, conductor, 1954
Yehudi Menuhin, violinist, 1955
Eugene Ormandy, conductor, and the Philadelphia Orchestra, 1955
Igor Stravinsky, composer, 1961
Jussi Björling, singer, 1965
Oleg Kagan, violinist, 1965
David Oistrakh, violinist
Aram Khachaturian, composer
Emil Gilels, pianist
Viktoria Mullova, violinist, 1981
Woody Allen, film director
Crown Prince Akihito of Japan (later Emperor Hirohito) and Princess Michiko, 1985

Emil Gilels (1916-1985)