Kullervo marked Sibelius’s real debut as a conductor and premiering a work of his own, with Emmy Achté and Abraham Ojanperä as the soloists. Even before the concert, the press was already proclaiming the birth of “Finnish music” in Kullervo. According to the newspaper Uusi Suometar, everyone knew at the premiere that “something akin to the christening feast of instrumental music born in Finland was about to take place”.

The concert did indeed mark Sibelius’s breakthrough; although the powerful theme and progressive music did not call forth unconditional praise, Oskari Merikanto, writing in Päivälehti, claimed that the Finnish content made it “the most impressive and powerful work ever to come from a Finnish pen”.

Text: Timo Virtanen
Picture: The National Library of Finland