The Sibelius Society of Finland was established on December 7, 1957, the year in which Sibelius died. The initiative came mainly from the Finnish Cultural Foundation. The Society’s first big task was to erect a monument in honour of Sibelius in Helsinki’s Sibelius Park. Although the State awarded a considerable grant for the project, the Society was obliged to organise a wide public fund-raising campaign in 1962. The magnificent monument by Eila Hiltunen was unveiled in 1967.
The International Jean Sibelius Violin Competition was held for the first time in 1965, the year that marked the 100th anniversary of Sibelius’s birth. The honorary committee of the competition consisted of such great names in music at that time as Sir John Barbirolli, Herbert von Karajan, Zoltán Kodály, Yehudi Menuhin, David Oistrakh and Igor Stravinsky.
The Society supported the idea of turning Sibelius’s home, Ainola, into a museum. This was done after the State bought Ainola in 1972. The museum is managed by the Ainola Foundation, for the administration of which the Society is partly responsible.
Work on a critical edition of the collected works of Sibelius began in 1996 and will continue until 2025. Two volumes are published each year. This is the biggest research project in the history of Finnish music.
Two local Sibelius Society branches were originally to have been set up in addition to the Sibelius Society of Finland, one in Hämeenlinna and the other in Turku. The Turku Society never materialised, but in 1958 an independent Sibelius Society was established in Hämeenlinna, the town where Sibelius was born and went to school. A similar society was founded the following year in Järvenpää, where Sibelius lived for most of his life.
The Society began awarding its prestigious Sibelius Medal in 1965. The first three medals went to President Urho Kekkonen, Aino Sibelius, and Herbert von Karajan the conductor.
The Society has also helped to arrange the international scientific Sibelius Conferences first held in 1990 and thereafter every five years.
Presidents of the Society
L.A. Puntila 1957-1961
Severi Saarinen 1961-1963
J.E. Niemi 1964-1968
Roger Lindberg 1968-1975
Matti Raatikainen 1975-1982
Fabian Dahlström 1983-2000
Olavi Luokomaa 1991-2000
Esko Häkli 2001-2008
Lauri Tarasti 2009-2015
Lauri Ratia 2016-