Young Jean is reading a book with beautiful white swans on the cover. At his father’s funeral, Jean’s imagination carries him away from the sorrow.
Armas Järnefelt arrives at his family’s villa together with his friend Jean Sibelius. Jean feels uncomfortable in the company of the upper-class family, but there’s a mutual attraction between him and Armas’s sister, Aino. Aino’s sensitive, mentally disturbed sister, Elli, takes her own life in the forest. The shocked Aino leans on Jean in her grief.
Aino and Jean get engaged. Aino’s father finally gives his blessing upon hearing about the success of Jean’s composition, Kullervo.
Sibelius travels to Vienna to study composition and takes part in an audition for an orchestra. He relishes the bohemian freedom of Vienna and spends his time partying and gambling, ending up at a brothel. As he returns to Finland, his angered wife, Aino, eventually forgives him and tells him she is pregnant.
Years later, Jean is composing his violin concerto. At the rehearsal of the world premiere, the musicians are laughing at his nerves. Later, crushed by negative reviews, Jean heads out drinking. Upon coming home, he finds Aino distraught: their daughter, Kirsti, has died of typhoid fever. The shared grief reignites Jean and Aino’s love.
Jean is in Italy, still composing to provide for himself and his family. In his despair, he sees Kirsti in a nightmare and is overcome by guilt over the loss of his daughter.
As the civil war breaks out, the family flees Helsinki, but during their escape, they are threatened by the red guard. Jean’s brother bribes the soldiers to let them go. Jean sees a flock of swans flying above and is inspired to compose.
Sibelius is rehearsing to conduct a concert and drinks to calm his nerves. At the concert, Aino is saddened by seeing her inebriated husband.
The Sibelius family is happy. Aino and Jean have found each other again, and Jean resists the temptation of debauchery.
An old man now, Jean is one of Finland’s most famous people. At his birthday party, his mind is burdened by the grim events of the past. Aino and Jean’s children arrive with their frail families to cheer up the frail Jean. As Jean dies of a heart attack in Aino’s arms, Aino is overcome by memories.
The full synopsis and other background information will be available in the programme leaflet.