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In recent years, Cellist Jussi Makkonen and pianist Nazig Azezian have made Finnish and especially Jean Sibelius’ music more widely known in their dozens of concerts across the Unites States. These concerts, sponsored and organised by the Finlandia Foundation National, have reached thousands of listeners at festivals and concert halls, and also at schools, churches, libraries, universities, cultural centres, embassies and consulates. The Sibelius-themed school concerts that have reached a high popularity in Finland have become also become a phenomenon in American schools. For most of the children, the concerts have been their first contact with classical music and the Finnish culture. Besides their traditional and narrative concerts, Makkonen and Azezian have been performing their Sibelius Inspiration multimedia concert that they have created in co-operation with American-Finnish director Aira Vehaskari. The multimedia concert had its premiere at the Orpheum Theater in New Orleans in 2015, presenting Sibelius’ music in an exceptional way, in combination with nature-themed videos that were filmed in Finland. The light and sound design of the multimedia concert, its forest-themed stage set, and the artists’ concert costumes created by Finnish fashion designer Mert Otsamo provide a unique setting for the concert and for experiencing Finnish classical music in the United States.  


Cellist Jussi Makkonen (Master of Music) and pianist Nazig Azezian (Master of Music) established their co-operation in 2013. Makkonen and Azezian’s concerts, records, books and music videos have reached hundreds of thousands of listeners in Finland and other countries. By the end of 2017, their concerts for schoolchildren had already reached over half a million children. Their concert tours have taken the artists to the United States, Mexico, Turkey, and many European countries, among other places. In the autumn of 2017, Makkonen and Azezian received a platinum record for their Melody Forest CD, recorded in Ainola and included in the Melody Forest book, as the first Finnish chamber music record to sell platinum. 


Jussi Makkonen has played in the United States regularly since 2007. As of 2009, he has performed in events and concerts organised by the Finlandia Foundation in different parts of the United States. In 2015, the Finlandia Foundation National organised a Sibelius jubilee year tour in the United States, including Jussi Makkonen and pianist Ruusamari Teppo, a descendant of Jean Sibelius. The tour included 29 concerts at universities, schools, festivals, concert halls and churches across the Unites States (Seattle, Astoria, Pasadena, San Diego, Tucson, Sunnyvale, Washington D.C. and Baltimore). Pianist Nazig Azezian debuted in the Unites States in 2015 together with cellist Jussi Makkonen in their Sibelius Inspiration multimedia concerts (New York and New Orleans).  In 2017, the Finlandia Foundation National organised their large-scale Finland centenary celebration year tour (Lake Worth, Seattle, Portland, San Diego, Denver, Boston and New York) that included nine performances and concerts in total, including the Union Club of the City of New York, the Seattle Pacific University, and a concert series at the San Diego Central Library, among other places. The artists were requested to perform at many high-level events in honour of the centenary celebration year of Finland: Maria Lohela, Speaker of the Parliament of Finland, gave a speech at an event held in Florida, and former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari was the keynote speaker of the Finland Centennial Forum in New York. In 2018, Makkonen and Azezian performed at the Finnish embassy at the Consular Corps College gala in Washington D.C. and visited Arlington to perform for the children of a local day-care centre. In the spring of 2019, Makkonen and Azezian performed in a library concert series in Fallbrook and for the local schoolchildren, at the Balboa Park in San Diego, and at the official residence of the Finnish Consul General in Los Angeles. At California State University Channel Islands, they gave a lecture for students besides performing a concert. Azezian and Makkonen promoted Finland through Sibelius’ music at a school close to the university. 


The Melody Forest book and record, released in Finnish, Swedish and English in 2015, were created by Makkonen and Azezian and illustrated by Katri Kirkkopelto. The book and record were distributed to every Finnish elementary school with the support of the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture. In the same year, the Melody Forest book and record were distributed to every Finnish school in the United States with the support of the Finlandia Foundation National.  


The Blue Bird book and record were released in February 2019, continuing the legacy of the successful Melody Forest project, created by illustrator and writer Katri Kirkkopelto, Makkonen and Azezian and released in Jean Sibelius’ anniversary year 2015. The Blue Bird record consists of new music by composer Jonne Valtonen, created at the request of Makkonen and Azezian. On the Blue Bird record, Makkonen and Azezian interpret Valtonen’s composition as soloists of the Vaasa City Orchestra conducted by James Lowe. As of next year, Makkonen and Azezian will perform the Blue Bird and other compositions in the Unites States as a duo and soloists for orchestras.  




- Makkonen and Azezian to perform in Hankasalmi on 28th October, and in Keuruu on 8th December Watch the wintry video of Sibelius’s Nocturno here, interpreted by cellist Jussi Makkonen and pianist Nazig Azezian in the freezing and wintry weather in the middle of an ice block circle. The video was filmed on the ice of Lake Pielinen and in Juuka, North Karelia in February 2016. A part of the video was filmed at Ainola in Järvenpää, where Sibelius used to live.

Sibelius’s wintry Nocturno

Nocturno Op. 24 No. 8, a small-scape composition, was originally composed for piano by Jean Sibelius. This piece was arranged for cello and piano by Jussi-Matti Haavisto. The video was directed by Aira Vehaskari who has worked with Makkonen and Azezian before. The Nocturno music video will be a part of cellist Jussi Makkonen’s and pianist Nazig Azezian’s Sibelius Inspiration multimedia concert, the world premiere of which was performed at the Orpheum Theatre in New Orleans in September 2015. Nocturno will supplement the multimedia concert’s winter theme. The Sibelius Inspiration multimedia concert enables the audience to experience Sibelius’s world through music, videos, and lighting.

Makkonen and Azezian will perform next in Hankasalmi on 28th of October, and in Keuruu on 8th of December. They will start a large-scale concert tour in 2017 and perform in Nurmes, Iisalmi and Pieksämäki in January, in the United States in February and March, in Kangasniemi, Järvenpää and Huittinen in April, in the United States again in September, and in Mexico and Sweden in November.

You can see the concert calendar here:


In recent years, cellist Jussi Makkonen and pianist Nazig Azezian have performed the music of Jean Sibelius for hundreds of thousands listeners in Finland and abroad. The Sibelius and Merikanto -themed school concerts written by Jussi Makkonen have been seen by over 350,000 Finnish children and teenagers.

Additional information: Communications manager Katja Toivanen, tel. +358-40-7011 686,




The Monola Gala, created by Cellist Jussi Makkonen and pianist Nazig Azezian, will be held at the Brahe Hall at the Lieksa Culture Centre on Saturday 9th of July 2016. The purpose of the gala is to collect funds for the restoration of Jean and Aino Sibelius’s honeymoon resort, the Monola granary. The granary, which has fallen into ruin over the years, is situated in the city of Lieksa, on the shore of Lake Pielinen, and its restoration has been a topic of discussion for decades.

The gala, which is arranged by the Monola Association, will include cellist Jussi Makkonen’s and pianist Nazig Azezian’s Sibelius Inspiration multimedia concert, the world premiere of which was held in September 2015 at the Orpheum Theatre in New Orleans, USA. The concert was accompanied by the Symphony Chorus of New Orleans.

The Monola award will be presented at the gala by the longtime chairman of the Sibelius Society of Finland, Minister Lauri Tarasti. The award will be presented to an exceptionally deserving party who has promoted the fostering of the heritage of Kalevala, Karelianism, and Sibelius in the Pielinen-Karelia area.

The Sibelius Inspiration concert performed in the gala is an all-encompassing experience which carries its audience to the world that inspired the Finnish national composer Jean Sibelius by the means of music, videos, audio and lights. The concert takes its listener to the world of the floral splendour of the Ainola garden at Sibelius’s home, to a magical moss forest at dusk, and to the summit of Koli in the midst of a thunder storm in North Karelia.

The stage will be decorated as a forest. The concert also includes the L’air d’Ainola fragrance that was inspired by the flowers of the Ainola garden. The only Finnish perfumer Max Perttula created this scent, based on the Ainola garden and designed by Makkonen and Azezian, for this production. The famous fashion designer Mert Otsamo has designed the artists’ concert costumes.

After the concert, Minister Lauri Tarasti will host the gala dinner at the Original Sokos Hotel Kimmel in Joensuu, where the musicians will also be participating. A bus transportation from the front of the Hotel Kimmel will be arranged to the gala concert in Lieksa and back. The concert guests also have the opportunity to purchase a concert package that includes the concert ticket, gala dinner, transportation from Joensuu to Lieksa and back, and hotel accommodation at the Hotel Kimmel.

Additional information:

In January, Jussi Makkonen and Nazig Azezian released a Jean Sibelius anniversary album, the theme of which is the return to the landscapes of Sibelius’s honeymoon. The album includes the compositions that were created during the honeymoon and in the influence of Lake Pielinen. Makkonen and Azezian will donate most of the profits of the album sales for the restoration of the Monola granary. So far, the album has brought almost 14,000 euros for the project.

The Monola Association was established in July 2015 at Jussi Makkonen’s initiative. The objective of the association is to foster the heritage of Kalevala, Karelianism, and Sibelius in the Pielinen-Karelia area. One of the first goals of the associations is to restore the Monola granary for tourism. Makkonen and Azezian operate as guides for the Finnish, Japanese and American partakers of their cultural excursions and dinner concerts. The first Monola gala concert was arranged last year in Lieksa in cooperation with the Pielinen Soi festival.

The Sibelius Inspiration multimedia concert is continuation for the musical education work that Makkonen and Azezian have done over many years in Finland and abroad. As of 2010, the narrative Sibelius concerts written by Jussi Makkonen have reached over 300,000 Finnish children and teenagers in the over 1,300 school concerts arranged by the Concert Centre Finland. Jussi and Nazig’s objective is to reach over 500,000 children and teenagers in Finland with their classical concerts by 2017 when Finland celebrates her 100th anniversary of independence. In recent years, the Concert Centre Finland has cooperated with them with the arrangement of school concerts in Finland.

Jussi Makkonen and Nazig Azezian were nominated for the best children’s album in the 2015 Emma music gala with their Melody Forest album that is included in the book of the same name, published by Lasten Keskus.

- Gold record concert at the Savoy theatre 4.10.2015
- World premiere of the Melody Forest multimedia concert in New Orleans 27.9.2015


Cellist Jussi Makkonen and pianist Nazig Azezian’s Melody Forest has sold over 10,000 copies and is certified gold. It is the first Finnish classical cello-piano record to have sold over 10,000 copies. The record is part of the Melody Forest book that is based on Jussi and Nazig’s school concerts. The book is written and illustrated by Katri Kirkkopelto. The book was published in January 2015 and has been distributed to every Finnish elementary school with the support of the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture. The book is published by Lasten Keskus & Kirjapaja Ltd., and it has also been translated into Swedish and English.

The videos of the multimedia concert have been filmed at Sibelius’ home, Ainola, in North Karelia and at Lake Pielinen where Sibelius searched for inspiration for his music. The artists’ concert costumes have been designed by the famous fashion designer Mert Otsamo.

Jussi’s hugely popular school concerts have had over 270,000 listeners since 2010. The year 2013 was a record year for him, as he performed in as many as 230 concerts.


Melody Forest multimedia concert
4.10.2015 at 19:00
The Savoy theatre
Kasarmikatu 46-48, Helsinki

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