Finns appeal for return of 1,200 pages of Sibelius

Finns appeal for return of 1,200 pages of Sibelius


norman lebrecht

February 26, 2020

An urgent appeal from Professor Timo Virtanen, editor-in-chief of the works of Jean Sibelius:
‘Some time ago, a large and valuable collection of Sibelius manuscripts which had been in a publishing archive in Germany since the early 1900s, was offered again for sale. The collection includes over 1,200 pages of various manuscripts, including Sibelius’s own purely written notes for the string quartet Voces intimae, the Svanevit suite for orchestra, and the music for the plays Pelleas and Mélisande and Belsazar’s Feast, arranged for piano. In addition, the collection contains important source material for the violin concerto, the third symphony and the symphonic poem Nightride and Sunrise. Now the fate of the collection – the largest known in the Sibelius research circle still wanders without a permanent home in the world – seems to be completely unclear. As a national treasure, Sibelius’ manuscripts are invaluable.
‘Today, a disaster is again imminent: one of our national treasures is in danger of ending up in an unknown country and at an unknown address. I hope it is a common interest, but also our duty and responsibility to nurture our unique national property and cultural heritage.’


  • Like his friend painter Gallen Kallela, Sibelius is more than a national treasure for Finland. The Finns must ne helped.

    • fflambeau says:

      How is Finland to be helped (it’s not a poor country). If the archive is preserved elsewhere but is accessible to the public, what’s the problem?

      • Of course Finland is not a poor country. The risk is that those documents finish in a vault and get lost. If you like classical music and if you go to Finland especially at Helsinki with the role in politic Sibelius played (the Kalevala) for this country, it’s easy to understand that this documents could be very importants for the people of that country.

        • fflambeau says:

          I did mention that they should be made public. Did you read that? And how did they get out of Finland to begin with? Sorry, I think it’s more than a bit nationalistic to assume that only a Finn could take care of a manuscript by Sibelius.

  • Karl says:

    How did the Germans get them? If they got them legally them the Finns should just outbid any rivals.

    • 18mebrumaire says:

      Most likely the MSS ended up in Germany because Sibelius’s publishers were German (Lienau, Breitkopf, etc.). As was customary until very recently once a work had been engraved the MS would have no further value and would remain with the engraver or publisher. That, and the near-destruction of Leipzig (and the publishing archives located there) during WWII could account for the distribution of this material in private hands.

  • kaa says:

    if it is for sale, the Finnish government could offer to buy it. It seems like a straightforward problem of “merely” money.It can’t be that much.

  • Gaffney Feskoe says:

    This material unquestionably belongs in Finland, IMO.

    Finland is a wealthy nation and could certainly raise sufficient resources to bring this material home.

  • fflambeau says:

    If they are preserved elsewhere but are accessible to scholars and the public, what’s the problem? Shouldn’t Finland have taken action on this years ago if they were serious?

  • Greg Bottini says:

    I totally agree with Professor Timo Virtanen.
    The manuscripts should be returned to Finland, with help from anyone with enough money and enough heart.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      Why Finland? As long as the manuscripts are looked after properly, and are available to be studied, why does it matter where they are located.