Commissioned Kokonainen Festivaali 2018
Publisher Gehrmans Musikförlag
Opus Number 60
Category Chamber Music
Year 2018
Duration 24 min
Instrumentation Flute, Clarinet, Violin, Cello, (Prepared) Piano
Special requirements two ebows, metal plates, Blue-Tack, paper, screws
Premiered 8th of June 2018 at Janakkala Church at the Kokonainen Festival 2018

Program note

My second piano quintet “Aino” Op.60 is also the second quintet out of a trilogy consisting of three large form works with the theme “Woman’s Destiny”. The trilogy is a three-year commission by the KokonainenFestival in Finland. The first quintet “Minna” was premiered at the festival in 2017 and the last quintet  Helene” will be premiered at the festival in 2019.

The second quintet “Aino – Emotions from the life of Aino Sibelius” will get its world premiere this year on the 8th of June at the Kokonainen Festival 2018. It will be played by the incredible musicians Heli Haapala flute, Pekka Niskanen clarinet, Linda Suolahti violin, Lauri Angervo cello and Tiina Karakorpi piano. As the name says, it is a selection of feelings from the turbulent and fascinating life of Aino Sibelius (1871-1969). She was the sister of three artist (the writer Arvid Järnefelt, the painter Eero Järnefelt and the composer Armas Järnefelt) but she is best known for her being the wife of the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius.

Aino Sibelius was in opposite to Minna Canth very hard for me to understand as a person and also at an emotional level, which means that I have worked very hard on this quintet “Aino”. As Jenni Kirves concludes in her book “Aino Sibelius – Ihmeellinen olento” (freely translated into English by me):

Aino Sibelius truly was a wondrous being. The secret of her persona will always remain a mystery to us, no matter how hard we try to get to her core. As a human she was of her own class, a special and contradictional woman, who at the same time was modest and strong, but within her strength very sensitive and sometimes soft, even weak. Her personality is hard to categorise. Even in her time she was considered to have a special character, which was hard to understand for many. From today’s perspective it feels even harder. The women of today maybe find it even harder to identify themselves with her persona than the women of her time. In this sense she was a artist in the same way as her husband.

The easy way out would be to analyse Aino from today’s feminist perspective as a person who sacrificed her own persona for her husband’s music. However she never experienced that she had done so, instead she felt uplifted by her husband’s music and to be part of something infinite and holy, and she saw herself as a privileged person. The persona of Aino Sibelius therefore can’t be put into the context of today’s view of equality. Aino didn’t feel repressed because for her it was self-evident that the woman is a woman and the man is a man, who both live according to their nature. It wasn’t a question of repressing or being repressed, she thought women were meant to use their own strength and men their own, and in this way they would fulfill their own path decided by destiny.”

Even though Aino has been very difficult for me to understand, I still wanted her to be part of my  trilogy “Woman’s Destiny” because without her dedication to her husband and to their family we  would maybe (most likely) not have so many works by Jean Sibelius. Even Jean Sibelius  acknowledged how lucky he had been to marry Aino and said in his speech on Aino’s 75th  Birthday You might have been happier and better off marrying another man, but I could never have been happier with anyone than with you”.

The first movement “Rakkaus” (Love) is what kept their marriage together even through very turbulent times and the severe alcoholism, which Jean Sibelius suffered from. Aino and Jean felt that they had found a soulmate in each other and loved each other deeply. Even after having been married for years they seemed to be newly in love and Aino has also been called “the genius of love”.  She wrote about their marriage “I am happy that I have been able to live by his side. I feel that I have not lived for nothing. I do not say that it has always been easy – one has had to repress and control one’s own wishes – but I am very happy. I bless my destiny and see it as a gift from heaven. To me my husband’s music is the word of God – its source is noble, and it is wonderful to live close to such a source.
Repressing her own needs was a great part of Aino Sibelius’ life, even if she saw it as her duty to do so. The second movement “Höyry” (Steam) is about repressing and controlling herself, while “steam was coming out from her ears”. Having six daughters with a man who suffered from alcoholism, and his travelling a lot for his work, and his spending a lot of nights away from home drinking, it must have been such a strain on their marriage that it is hard to imagine how Aino made it through those times. But when Aino was angry at her husband she would not shout at him, she would sulk in silence for days or even weeks at a time.
But even during hard the times of their marriage, Aino Sibelius always missed her husband very much when he wasn’t at home, which the third movement “Kaipaus” (Longing) is about. When the Sibelius family got a radio set at home,  she got some comfort from hearing his music and concerts being broadcasted, she felt closer to Jean through his music. After his death she lived for another 12 years in which she missed him tremendously. Aino would every evening read his scores in bed, just to feel that he was a bit closer to her, for a little while.
Rautaa” means iron and I feel that was what this woman, Aino Sibelius, was made of. The small and fragile woman Aino had so much willpower and dedication to her life task and destiny that all I can do is admire her. Aino Sibelius’ life was anything but easy: being the wife of an alcoholic artist who is supposed to have said “I’m a poor man with a rich man’s habits”, which would lead to financial distress. Moreover their third child Kirsti died from typhoid fever at the age of two (in 1900), Aino’s sister Ellen committed suicide one year later. Aino lived through both of the world wars and the Finnish civil war. All of this is more than most people could endure in a lifetime, but Aino did.


Aino –  Listen on Youtube



The braveness and energy which characterised the first piano quintet return this year in a more refined form. Damström has a strong and original composer voice.
-Anna Pulkkis, Hufvudstadsbladet 10.6.2018


8th of June 2016 World premiere  – More info

13th of October 2016 Swedish premiere 

29th of August 2020 Tallinn Music Week – More info

23rd of May 2022 performance in Gothenburg – More info