Leevi Madetoja

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Madetoja (c. 1930s)

Leevi Antti Madetoja (17 February 1887, Oulu – 6 October 1947, Helsinki) was a Finnish composer, music critic, conductor, and teacher of the late-Romantic and early-modern periods, generally considered to be one of the most significant Finnish composers to emerge in the wake of Jean Sibelius, under whom he studied privately from 1908 to 1910. The core of Madetoja's oeuvre consists of a set of three symphonies. The First (1916) stands as one of the most mature and restrained of symphonic debuts, while the monumental Second (1918), composed during the Finnish Civil War, is a "war symphony" in which the composer reflects upon personal tragedy. The pastorale Third (1926)—Madetoja's "masterpiece"—is one of the finest symphonies in the post-Sibelian, Finnish orchestral canon; indeed, a composition "equal in stature" to Sibelius's seven essays in the form.

Madetoja's other notable works include two operas, The Ostrobothnians (1924; informally proclaimed "Finland's national opera" following its successful premiere) and Juha (1935); the ballet-pantomime, Okon Fuoko (1927); the Elegia from the Symphonic Suite (1909); Kullervo (1913), a symphonic poem based upon a hero from the Kalevala, Finland's national epic; and, The Garden of Death (1918, r. 1919), a three-movement suite for solo piano. In addition, a number of Madetoja's compositions for solo voice and for choir have found a lasting place in the Finnish repertoire. A fully scored Fourth Symphony might have further solidified his reputation, both within Finland and abroad, but it reportedly was lost in 1938 when his briefcase was stolen at a Paris railway station; a purported a third opera and a requiem mass, moreover, never materialized, their respective planning periods cut short by Madetoja's death, at age 60.

Acclaimed during his lifetime, Madetoja is today seldom heard outside the Nordic countries, although his music has in recent decades enjoyed an apparent renaissance—evidenced by the recording projects of Petri Sakari (fi) and the Iceland Symphony Orchestra (1991–92), Arvo Volmer and the Oulu Symphony Orchestra (1998–2006), and John Storgårds and the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra (2012–13). Stylistically, Madetoja's music reveals the influence of Sibelius and, at times, Tchaikovsky, but is by no means derivative; his idiom is unique and personal, a blend of Finnish "melancholy", folk melody (especially from his native region, Ostrobothnia), and the "elegance" of the French symphonic tradition, founded on César Franck and guided by Vincent d'Indy. Thus, although Madetoja's music is Romantic in character, it eschews the excesses of that art movement in favor of the "balance, clarity, refinement of expression, and technical polish" of classicism.

Despite grants and pensions from the Finnish state to support his composition, Madetoja sought to supplement his income with a number of other positions, working variously as a minor conductor—first for the Helsinki Orchestral Society (1912–14) and then the Viipuri Orchestra (1914–16)—and as a teacher at the Helsinki Music Institute (1916–39) and the University of Helsinki (1926–47), both of which he himself graduated from in 1910. Madetoja also was an influential music critic, primarily with the newspaper Helsingin sanomat (1916–32), for which he reviewed concerts and penned essays on the music scenes of both Finland and France. Madetoja married the Finnish poet, L. Onerva (fi), in 1918; their marriage was tempestuous and remained childless.

Life and career[edit]

Madetoja as a young man (c. 1908)

Early years (1887–1915)[edit]


Madetoja was born in Oulu, Finland, on 17 February 1887, the third son of Anders Antinpoika Madetoja (1855–1888) and Anna Elisabeth, née Hyttinne (1858–1934).[1] To provide for his family, Madetoja's father, a first mate on a merchant ship,[2] had earlier emigrated in 1886 to the United States (indeed, he had planned eventually to relocate the entire family), only to die in 1888 of tuberculosis on the banks of the Mississippi River.[1] Leevi thus never met his father, and he and his brother, Yrjö (1885–1918), were raised by their mother. (Madetoja's oldest brother, Hjalmar, had died as an infant in 1883.)[1] The Madetoja family lived in relative poverty, and as a boy, Leevi sought to pull his weight, working variously as a street cleaner and as a laborer at a sawmill, the difficulty of the tasks compounded by hunger and malnutrition.[3]

As a child, Madetoja was by no means a musical prodigy, although his first attempts at composition were at the age of eight. He also studied the violin and piano on his own and played the mouth organ as a boy. Additionally, Madetoja reportedly became skilled at playing the kantele (a traditional plucked Finnish folk instrument): he received a 10-string kantele on his tenth birthday, and in secondary school at the Oulu Lyceum, this was upgraded to a 30-string version, built by a professional constructor. (Madetoja is certainly the only notable classical composer in history whose primary instrument was the kantele.)[1] In addition, at the Lyceum, Leevi sang in the school choir and, later, directed his fellow students in the school's male and mixed choirs.[4]

Student years[edit]

In 1906, Madetoja enrolled at the University of Helsinki and the Helsinki Music Institute (founded by Martin Wegelius in 1882), where he studied music theory, composition, and piano under, among others, Armas Järnefelt and Erik Furuhjelm (fi).[5] A year later, in the summer of 1907, the Finnish Literature Society sponsored Madetoja's trip to the Inkeri region in Russia, where he collected folk songs.[5] Additional good fortune arrived in 1908, when Leevi was selected for the (rare) privilege of private instruction with Finland's most famous composer, Jean Sibelius. Although his lessons with Sibelius at Ainola were unstructured and sporadic, Madetoja clearly valued his time with the master and even assimilated some of Sibelius's unique musical language. (The two studied together until 1910; for more on their relationship, see: Madetoja and Sibelius.)

As a young man, Madetoja became an accomplished kantele player.

During his time at the Music Institute, Madetoja's first compositions premiered at various student concerts: in December 1908, the Op. 2 songs, Yksin and Lähdettyäs; and on 29 May 1909, the Piano Trio, Op. 1 (second and third movements only).[5] Even more significantly, in January 1910, Robert Kajanus, chief conductor of the Helsinki Orchestral Society, conducted Madetoja's Elegia (from the four-movement Symphonic Suite, Op. 4) to great success, with the Elegia described as the "first master work" of a budding "natural orchestral composer".[6] Upon graduation from both the Music Institute and the University of Helsinki in 1910, Madetoja began his career as a music writer and critic, penning essays and reviews for the Säveletär magazine and, later, the Päivä newspaper (fi).[6] Additional praise followed Madetoja's first composition concert in Helsinki on 26 September 1910, at which he conducted the Piano Trio and excerpts from the Symphonic Suite and the Chess Suite, Op. 5 (excerpted from the incidental music Madetoja had composed for Eino Leino's play).[6][n 1] The positive reviews did, however, contain a note of concern; with Madetoja's plans to travel to Paris to resume his studies well known, one critic, Evert Katila (fi) of Uusi Suometar, worried about the negative "influence French modern atonal composition" could have on "this fresh northern nature [Madetoja]".[6]

Paris (c. 1890s), where Madetoja studied from 1910–11; he fell in love with the city and returned many times over the course of his life.

Madetoja had become interested in the Paris music scene as a result of excited and enthusiastic reports of his composer-friend, Toivo Kuula, who had earlier studied in the city.[6] With funding from the Finnish government and a letter of introduction from Sibelius in hand, Madetoja successfully applied to be a student of Vincent d'Indy, who headed a school of thought founded upon the symphonic principles of César Franck. The two only met for one lesson, however, as d'Indy took ill and Madetoja's plans collapsed; he would spend the rest of his time in Paris attending concerts and working on his own compositions (the result was the Concert Overture, Op. 7).[6] After a brief stay at home in Oulu (where he composed and premiered on 29 September 1911 a short cantata for mixed choir and piano, Merikoski, Op. 10), Madetoja began a second trip abroad, to Vienna and Berlin, in the autumn of 1911. Sibelius again aided his pupil, arranging for Madetoja to study under his own former teacher, Robert Fuchs.[7][n 2] While in Vienna, Madetoja also audited courses at the Conservatory on composition and conducting, observed rehearsals conducted by Franz Schalk,[8] and composed Dance Vision, Op. 11, in addition to choir and piano pieces.[9]

Conductor posts in Helsinki and Viipuri[edit]

In 1912, Kajanus appointed both Madetoja and Kuula—who had together returned to Helsinki from Berlin—assistant conductors of the Helsinki Orchestral Society, Madetoja's term lasting until 1914. The appointment, however, placed Madetoja in the middle of Helsinki's "feud" of orchestras, as Kajanus' Orchestral Society squared off against the newly created Helsinki Symphony Orchestra, which consisted mainly of foreign musicians and was conducted by Georg Schnéevoigt.[9][10] (With 150,000 people, Helsinki simply could not sustain rival orchestras, especially with the Swedish-speaking patrons supporting Schnéevoigt and the Finnish-speakers backing Kajanus.)[11] On a positive note, Madetoja's position with the Orchestral Society provided him the opportunity to perform a number of his compositions: on 12 October 1912, Dance Vision premiered under Madetoja's baton, and even more importantly, he had his second composing concert on 14 October 1913, where at he premiered the Concert Overture and Kullervo, Op. 15, a symphonic poem based on the Kalevalic tragic hero of the same name.[n 3] Madetoja earned little as an assistant conductor and thus supplemented his income as a music critic for Uusi Suometar, becoming particularly well known for his articles on the French music scene and his recurring travels to Paris.[9]

Robert Kajanus (c. ????), founder and chief conductor of the Helsinki Orchestral Society, to whom Madetoja dedicated his First Symphony.

The dawn of the First World War in July 1914 brought an end to the feud between the two rival orchestras: the Helsinki Symphony Orchestra collapsed after the German musicians who formed its backbone were expelled from the country, and Kajanus and Schnéevoigt divided conducting duties for a joint orchestra, the Helsinki City Orchestra, that consisted of about forty players surviving on starvation wages.[14] As a result of the merger, Madetoja (and, a year later, Kuula) became expendable; with little money, Madetoja pawned his metronome in an attempt to stave off penury.[8] Despite the hostilities, he traveled to Russia in September 1914 to take up the conductorship of the Viipuri Orchestra (1914–1916).[9] Madetoja found the Viipuri Orchestra in a state of relative devastation: he was able to piece together 19 musicians, a reality that forced him to spend much of his time finding and arranging material for such an undersized ensemble.[15]

Mature career (1916–1934)[edit]

A new Finnish symphonist[edit]

Madetoja joined the ranks of symphonic composers on 10 February 1916, when he conducted the premiere of his First Symphony in Helsinki (Kajanus the dedicatee). Madetoja had composed the new piece while juggling his responsibilities in Viipuri, and apparently he completed the finale just before the scheduled premiere.[6] The critics, some of whom noted the influence of Sibelius (for example, Karl Wasenius (fi) in Hufvudstadsbladet), received the work warmly.[16] In the wake of the First Symphony's success, Madetoja's began composing a second symphony in the summer, having recently relocated to Helsinki. Composition, of course, did not provide income, and so Madetoja began work as a music critic for the Helsingin Sanomat newspaper (1916–32) and as a teacher of music theory and history at the Music Institute (1916–39). Madetoja—quiet and unassuming by nature—was perhaps not the most charismatic of lecturers, but he was highly knowledgeable and had at his disposal a wealth of insightful observations gleaned from his own education and extensive travel.[15] Further evidence of Madetoja's ascent arrived in 1917 when the Finnish government granted him an artist's pension for the duration of three years, an award that allowed Madetoja to concentrate ever more on composition. (In 1918, the pension was extended for life.)[15]

As the year 1918 arrived, the embers of the First World War ignited into civil war (27 January – 15 May 1918) between Tsarist Russia and the Grand Duchy of Finland, which sought independence. Madetoja was still at work on his new symphony—a composition in which he had decided to contemplate Finland's fate in the wake of world war and a revolution in Russia—when the Finnish Civil War brought personal tragedy. On 9 April, Red Guards captured Yrjö Madetoja, Leevi's only surviving sibling, in Viipuri, where he was executed along with other officials. It fell to Leevi to break the news to the family:

I received a telegram from Viipuri yesterday that made my blood run cold: "Yjrö fell on the 13th day of April" was the message in all its terrible brevity. This unforeseen, shocking news fills us with unutterable grief. Death, that cruel companion of war and persecution, has not therefore spared us either; it has come to visit us, to snatch one of us as its victim. Oh when will we see the day when the forces of hatred vanish from the world and the good spirits of peace can return to heal the wounds inflicted by suffering and misery?

— Leevi Madetoja, in a 5 May 1916 letter to his mother, Anna[17]

A month later during May Day celebrations, Kuula got into an altercation with a group of White Army officers and, in the heat of the moment, was shot to death, dying on 18 May.[18] These two losses deeply upset Madetoja and likely found expression in the symphony; the epilogue Madetoja affixed to the work is one of pain and resignation, "I have fought my battle and now withdraw".[18][n 4]

Friend and fellow composer, Toivo Kuula (c. 1910), who encouraged Madetoja's early travels to France and also studied under Jean Sibelius.

The 17 December 1918 premiere of the Second Symphony under Kajanus's baton was extraordinarily well received. Writing in Uusi Suometar, Katila, for example, proclaimed Madetoja's latest work to be "The most remarkable achievement in our music since the monumental series of Sibelius",[24] and certainly the Second Symphony remains Madetoja's most popular.[n 5] (Upon his mother's death in 1934, Madetoja retroactively dedicated the Second Symphony to her.) At this time, Madetoja also composed a piece for solo piano in memory of his brother, originally titled Improvisation in Memory of my Brother Yrjö and published in Lumikukkia magazine in 1918. In 1919, Madetoja expanded the piece into a three-movement suite, The Garden of Death, Op. 41.[17] The suite, which shares melodic motifs with the Second Symphony,[2] does not mention Yjrö by name.[17]

The 1920s found Madetoja financially stable but stretched thin. In addition to his teaching responsibilities at the Music Institute and criticism for Helsingin Sanomat, by June 1928 Madetoja had added the position of music teacher at his other alma mater, the University of Helsinki. Despite the trifling salary, the post held great prestige,[25] having previously been the chair of Fredrik Pacius (1835–69),[26] Richard Faltin (fi) (1870–96),[27] and (controversially) Kajanus (1897–27),[28] and included among its tasks the conductorship of the Academic Orchestra.[29] He also took on administrative roles in the music profession: in 1917, he was a founding member of the Finnish Composers' League (Suomen Säveltaiteilijain Liitto; forerunner to the Society of Finnish Composers (fi), or Suomen Säveltäjät, founded in 1945), serving as its secretary and, later, president; in 1928, moreover, he helped establish the Finnish Composers' Copyright Society (Säveltäjäin Tekijänoikeustoimisto; TEOSTO), serving on its board of directors from 1928 to 1947 and as its chairman from 1937 to 1947.[29][30] Despite manifold commitments, Madetoja (somehow) found time to compose three of his most important, large-scale works: an opera, The Ostrobothnians, Op. 45 (1918–23); the Third Symphony, Op. 55 (1925–26); and a ballet-pantomime, Okon Fuoko, Op. 58 (1925–27). When taken together, these three works solidified his position as Finland's premiere, post-Sibelian composer.

A Finnish national opera[edit]

The Ostrobothnians commission, first offered to Kuula in November 1917, was for an opera based upon the popular 1914 folk play by the Ostrobothnian journalist and writer, Artturi Järviluoma. Although Kuula viewed the play as a strong candidate for a libretto, its realism conflicted with his personal preference for fairy tale or legend-based subject matter, in keeping with the Wagnerian operatic tradition.[31] When Kuula refused the opportunity, the commission fell to Madetoja, who had also expressed interest in the project. The composition process, begun in late December 1917, took Madetoja much longer than expected; letters to his mother indicate that he had entertained hopes of completing the opera by the end of 1920 and, when this deadline passed, 1921 and, eventually, 1922. In the end, the opera was not completed until September 1923, although it would be another full year until the opera premiered.[31] Nevertheless, some of the music (from Acts I and II)[32] did see the light of day sooner, as Madetoja had pieced together a five-number orchestral suite at the behest of Kajanus, who premiered the suite on 8 March 1923 in Bergen, Norway during his orchestra tour; the reviews were positive, describing the music as "interesting and strange".[1]

The historical Finnish province of Ostrobothnia (in red), from which Madetoja hailed and about which he wrote his most important work, the opera, The Ostrobothnians.

The first performance of the complete opera on 25 October 1924 at the Finnish National Opera (which, incidentally, was also the one-thousandth performance in the history of the Opera House) was, perhaps, the greatest triumph of Madetoja's entire career. Indeed, with The Ostrobothnians, Madetoja succeeded where his teacher, Jean Sibelius, famously had failed: in the creation of a Finnish national opera, a watershed moment for a country lacking an operatic tradition of its own.[31] The success of the opera was due to a confluence of factors: the appeal of the music, tonal but darkly colored; the use of folk melodies (blended with Madetoja's own idiom) familiar to the audience; a libretto (also by Madetoja) based upon a well-known and beloved play; a story about freedom from oppression and self-determination, the allegorical qualities of which were particularly salient in a country that had recently emerged from a war for independence from Russia; and, the skillful combination of comedic and tragic elements.[31] The Ostrobothnians immediately became a fixture of the Finnish operatic repertoire (where is remains today), and was even performed abroad during Madetoja's lifetime.

A trio of large-scale works[edit]

After the success of The Ostrobothnians, Madetoja departed for France, staying for six months in Houilles, a small town just outside of Paris. Here, in the quiet of the Parisian suburbs, Madetoja began to compose his Third Symphony, Op. 55, and upon returning to Finland in October (due to financial worries), his work on the project continued.[33] The new symphony received its premiere in Helsinki on 8 April 1926, and although Madetoja received the usual praise, the audience and critics found the new work somewhat perplexing: with the monumental, elegiac Second Symphony having set expectations, the optimism and restraint of the Third came as a surprise, its (subsequent) significance eluding nearly everyone. Some years later, the French music writer, Henri-Claude Fantapié, described the cheerful, pastorale Third Symphony as a "sinfonia Gallica" in spirit and explained the premiere as thus: "The listeners expected the opera [The Ostrobothnians] to be followed by a nationalistic anthem and were disappointed to hear something that seemed to them to be hermetic and that, to crown it all, was lacking in pomposity and solemnity … the properties the majority of Finnish music-lovers always expect in a new work."[33] Nevertheless, today the Third Symphony is widely regarded as Madetoja's "masterpiece", the rare Finnish symphony equal in stature to Sibelius's seven essays in the form.

Later years (1935–1947)[edit]


Madetoja (c. 1940s), late in life.

Madetoja died at approximately 11:00 am on 6 October 1947 at the Konkordia Methodist hospital in Helsinki.[34] Although some sources attribute his failing health to alcoholism and his death to heart attack, according to his most notable biographer, Erkki Salmenhaara, no surviving record indicates a cause of death.[34] Critics praised Madetoja in obituaries and Onerva published a poem in her husband's memory. The Madetoja funeral took place five days later on 11 October at the Helsinki Old Church; the president, Juho Kusti Paasikivi, supplied a wreath, as did the Ministry of Education, the City of Oulu, and other institutions and well-wishers.[35] Upon his death, Madetoja left a number of (never-realized) works in various stages of very early planning, including ideas of a violin concerto, a requiem mass, a third opera (apparently a "Finnish Parsifal"), and Ikävyys, a composition after a poem by Aleksis Kivi.[35]

Madetoja (joined by Onerva in 1972) is buried at Hietaniemi cemetery (Hietaniemen hautausmaa) in Helsinki, a national landmark and frequent tourist attraction featuring the graves of famous Finnish military figures, politicians, and artists. Unveiled in 1955,[36] the gravestone—located on block V8 in the Old Area (Vanha alue), near the cemetery wall (circle marker 48 on the following map; approx. 60°10′04″N 024°54′59″E / 60.16778°N 24.91639°E / 60.16778; 24.91639)—is by the Finnish sculptor Kalervo Kallio and is apparently courtesy of TEOSTO. Also buried in the cemetery are Madetoja's dear friend, Toivo Kuula (d. 1918; block U19), Onerva's onetime paramour, Eino Leino (d. 1926; block U21), and Madetoja's teacher at the Music Institute, Armas Järnefelt (d. 1958; block V14).

Madetoja and Sibelius[edit]

Ainola (c. 1940s), Sibelius's home in Järvenpää, where Madetoja studied.

Student and teacher[edit]

Madetoja, 22 years Sibelius's junior, began to study composition privately under the Finnish master in 1908, a unique opportunity with which only one other individual prior to Madetoja had been presented: his friend, Toivo Kuula.[37][n 6] Later in life, during Sibelius's fiftieth birthday celebrations, Madetoja recounted the way in which he had, as a young man, reacted to the news of 1908:

I still clearly remember with what real feeling of joy and respect I received the information that I had been accepted as a student of Sibelius—I thought I was seeing a beautiful dream. Jean Sibelius, that master blessed by the Lord, would be bothered to read the pieces written by me!

— Leevi Madetoja, in a December 1915 article for the Karjala newspaper (fi)[5]

Sibelius, however, was not a natural teacher.[n 7] First, he had little patience for the tedium of pedagogy or the quotidian nature of instruction, resulting in a teaching style that was "anything but systematic or disciplined".[2] Madetoja, for his part, recalled that Sibelius's method consisted of "short, striking remarks" (for example, "No dead notes. Every note must live"! and "You must jump into the water if you are to learn to swim. You must not be afraid of the difficulty of the task..."), rather than "instruction in the ordinary pedagogic sense".[38] Second, Sibelius's "deeply idiosyncratic" idiom was too "personal" to serve adequately as a "foundation" upon which to build a school of musical thought.[39] That Madetoja's own musical style shows the mark of Sibelius is a testament to the longer duration and greater depth of his instruction under Sibelius; Kuula, who only briefly studied with Sibelius, shows no such influence.[40] Finally, Sibelius—prone to periods of self-doubt and ever-concerned with his standing in artistic circles—was mistrustful of the next generation of composers, fearing one might displace him from his perch.[39] ("Youth has a right to make its voice heard. One sees oneself as a father figure to them all", Sibelius confided to his diary. "[But] they don't give a damn about you. Perhaps with reason".)[41]

Despite these issues, Madetoja found his instruction under Sibelius to be sufficiently enriching and the two men enjoyed a "harmonious" relationship, notwithstanding occasional, minor irritations.[40][42] Madetoja was clearly fond of his teacher and enjoyed Sibelius's counsel and company:

Are you coming to Paris soon? I would be very pleased if you did. I am very lonely here. And my spirits are often low, because I have not yet been able to settle down to work. But I hope to do so very soon when my appetite for composition returns … I want to thank you yet again for all the kindness and goodwill you have shown me. You have inspired my work; you have given a faltering youngster courage to set out on the right path, albeit a thorny path but one that leads to the sun-clad and richly coloured heights. I shall always feel deeply grateful to you for all that you have done.

— Leevi Madetoja, writing from Paris, in a 1910 letter to Sibelius[43]

Madetoja continued to feel this way throughout his life. A decade later, he sought to defend Sibelius against the (growing) conventional wisdom that he was a poor teacher around whom no appreciable school of thought had formed (unlike, for example, Arnold Schoenberg and the Second Viennese School). In Aulos, a volume published on the occasion of Sibelius's sixtieth birthday in 1925, Madetoja argued for a more nuanced, less "superficial" definition of the word 'teacher' and recounted with fondness his personal experiences as one of Sibelius's pupils.[44]


Madetoja's teacher and colleague, the composer Jean Sibelius (c. 1913), "that master blessed by the Lord".

Sibelius followed Madetoja's rise with the pride of a teacher. Sibelius early on recognized his pupil's potential as a symphonic composer ("What you wrote about your symphonic business delights me exceedingly", Sibelius wrote to Madetoja. "I feel that you will achieve your greatest triumphs in that genre, for I consider that you have precisely the properties that make a symphonic composer. This is my firm belief".),[42] and the 10 February 1916 premiere of Madetoja's First Symphony found Sibelius's remarking on its beauty. The 17 December 1918 premiere of Madetoja's Second Symphony similarly impressed Sibelius, who was again in attendance.[45]

Nevertheless, Sibelius also eyed Madetoja's maturation somewhat wearily. For example, when some reviews of the First Symphony discerned within Madetoja's music the influence of Sibelius, he worried his former pupil might take offence at the comparison and mistook Madetoja's characteristic "melancholia" for "sulkiness".[16] Suddenly, Sibelius found Madetoja arrogant and watched with concern as he drew closer to Kajanus, with whom Sibelius had an on-again-off-again friendship/rivalry. "Met Madetoja, who—I'm sorry to say—has become pretty bumptious after his latest success," Sibelius fretted to his diary. "Kajanus smothers him with flattery and he hasn't the breeding to see it for what it is".[16] A second complication for the Madetoja-Sibelius relationship was the master's fear that his former pupil eventually might "supplant him in public esteem".[43] Certainly Madetoja's rise coincided with Sibelius's increasing sense of isolation:

Despite how my "stock", so to speak, has risen with the people, I feel completely uncertain about myself. I see how the young lift their heads—Madetoja higher than others—and I have to admire them, but my inner self needs more egotism and callousness than I am presently capable of. And my contemporaries are dying.

— Jean Sibelius, in a diary entry from 9 March 1916[46]

Madetoja was "scarcely aware" of Sibelius's private musings to his diary, and for his part, he continued as a critic and writer to champion actively his former teacher. In July 1914, for example, Madetoja praised Sibelius's tone poem, The Oceanides, writing in Uusi Suometar that rather than "repeat endlessly" the style of his previous works, Sibelius had yet again shown his penchant for "renewing himself musically … It is the sign of life … always forward, striving for new aims".[47] He also had kind words for Tapiola, describing it as "a beautiful work", and among others, Sibelius's Third,[48] Fourth,[49] and Fifth symphonies.[50]

Despite his conducting duties in Viipuri and the stress of composing his First Symphony, Madetoja sought to take on yet another commitment: to write the first Finnish language biography of Sibelius in honor of the master's fiftieth birthday in 1915.[n 8] Notwithstanding his initial misgivings, Sibelius consented to the project; certainly, he could not have found a biographer more sympathetic and sensitive than Madetoja.[51] The interviews at Ainola, however, came to nothing: to the embarrassment of both men, publishers were uninterested in the biography. As Madetoja wrote to Sibelius:

I have now received refusals from every publisher. For me this is totally incomprehensible. Things have come to a pretty poor state when our publishers are so cautious, and think only of their wretched balance sheets, when a project of this importance concerning our greatest composer is proposed. I hope, however, you won't be angry with me, even though I have troubled you so much over this project.

— Leevi Madetoja, in a 1915 letter to Sibelius[52]

As a result, the biography was abandoned and Madetoja settled for a piece in Helsingin sanomat in which he took other critics to task for having overlooked the "absolute, pure" qualities of Sibelius's music.[53] Sibelius outlived Madetoja by almost 10 years.



The Oulu Music Center, home of the Oulu Symphony Orchestra, in 2007. The main performance hall is named in Madetoja's memory.
The Madetoja School of Music, a special music high school in Oulu named in Madetoja's memory.

Acclaimed during his lifetime, Madetoja is today seldom heard outside the Nordic countries (the Elegia perhaps excepted). A few commentators, however, have described such neglect as unfortunate and undeserved,[2] as Madetoja is one of the most important post-Sibelian Finnish symphonists.[24] Part of this neglect is not unique to Madetoja: the titanic legacy of Sibelius has made it difficult for Finnish composers, as a group, to gain much attention, and each has had to labor under his "dominating shadow".[54] However, with respect to the neglect of Madetoja in particular, something else might also be at play: Madetoja's eschewal of Romantic excess in favor of restraint, perhaps, has made him a tougher sell to audiences. According to one music critic:

Because Madetoja never makes any concessions to the listener, his music has not gained the position it deserves in the public's awareness. People are now beginning to open their ears to it. But that he deserves far greater attention, and that his music is both rare and precious and not simply a poor edition of the music of Sibelius—that is something they have not yet learnt.

— Ralf Parland, writing in 1945, about two years before Madetoja's death in 1947[2]

Through most of the twentieth century, however, there was little evidence to support Parland's assertion that the people had begun to "open their ears" to Madetoja's music. Only now, in recent decades, has Madetoja enjoyed the renaissance Parland foresaw, as three major recording projects by Nordic orchestras evidence: in 1992, Petri Sakari and the Iceland Symphony Orchestra (Chandos); in 2000–06, Arvo Volmer and the Oulu Symphony Orchestra (Alba Records (fi)); and, in 2013, John Storgårds and the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra (Ondine). Indeed, the largest of the projects, by Volmer, purports to feature the world premiere recordings of a handful of Madetoja's orchestral works, among them the Pastoral Suite, Op. 34; Dance Vision, Op. 11; the Chess Suite, Op. 5; Rustic Scenes, Op. 77, the Barcarola, Op. 67/2, and the complete Symphonic Suite, Op. 4 (as opposed to just the Elegia).

Modern-day critics have received the Madetoja revival with enthusiasm. The American Record Guide's Tom Godell, for example, has applauded the recording efforts of both Volmer and Sakari, in particular praising Madetoja for his "beautiful, swirling rainbows of vivid [orchestral] color" and his "uncanny ability to instantly establish a mood or rapidly sketch vast, ice-covered landscapes".[55] Writing for the same magazine, William Trotter reviews Volmer's "absorbing" five-volume set, pronouncing Madetoja a "first-rate composer, touched sometimes with genius … who had to wait a long, long time before his work could emerge from under the dominating shadow of his teacher's [Sibelius's] seven symphonies".[54] A notable detractor, however, has been Donald Vroon, chief editor of the American Record Guide. Arguing that Madetoja's three symphonies "reflect the influences of Sibelius—but … without his blazing inspiration", Vroon describes Madetoja's music as "bland" and "brooding … very Nordic, maybe written in winter when the sun is seldom seen". He concludes, "I can't imagine anyone being thrilled by them [the symphonies] or considering Madetoja a great discovery".[56]


A postage stamp in commemoration of Madetoja's 1987 centennial.

A number of buildings and streets in Finland bear Madetoja's name. In Oulu, Madetoja's hometown, the Oulu Symphony Orchestra has performed since 1983 in the Oulu Music Center's (fi) (Oulun musiikkikeskus) Madetoja Hall (Madetojan sali), located on Leevi Madetoja Street (Leevi Madetojan katu). A second landmark in the city, directly adjacent to the Music Center, is the Madetoja School of Music (fi) (Madetojan musiikkilukio), a special music high school founded in 1968 and renamed in the composer's honor in 1981.[57] Oulu is also home to a bronze statue of the composer (approx. 65°00′54″N 025°28′14″E / 65.01500°N 25.47056°E / 65.01500; 25.47056), which stands in a park near Oulu City Hall; the statue was unveiled in 1962 and is by the Finnish sculptor Aarre Aaltonen (fi).[36] Finally, in addition to the Madetoja-Onerva gravesite, Helsinki boasts two streets named after the composer (Madetojanpolku and Madetojankuja), both of which are near an urban park (Pukinmäki).

An additional honor arrived in 1987, when the Finnish government issued a postage stamp of Madetoja's likeness in commemoration of the centennial anniversary of the composer's birth. The centennial also marked the arrival of the Finnish musicologist Erkki Salmenhaara's Finnish-language biography of the composer, titled Leevi Madetoja (Helsinki: Tammi), which three decades later remains the definitive account of Madetoja's life and career. A year later in 1988, the Society of Finnish Composers established the Madetoja Prize (fi) for outstanding achievement in the performance of contemporary Finnish music; the Finnish conductor, Susanna Mälkki, is the current honoree (2016).[58] In addition, every three years, the Oulu University of Applied Sciences (Oulun ammattikorkeakoulu) hosts—together with the Oulu Conservatory (fi) (Oulun konservatorion) and the Northern Ostrobothnia Association of Art and Culture (Pohjois-Pohjanmaan taiteen ja kulttuurin tuki ry)—the Leevi Madetoja Piano Competition (Leevi Madetoja pianokilpailu), which is one of Finland's premiere music competitions for students.

Selected works[edit]

A list of Madetoja's compositions:[59]

  • Op. 4 – Symphonic Suite (1909–10)
  • Op. 5 – Chess, suite of incidental music from the homonymous play (1910)
  • Op. 6 – Alcibiades, incidental music (1910)
  • Op. 7 – Concert Overture (1911)
  • Op. 8 – Nine Songs for male voice choir (1908–14)
  • Op. 11 – Dance Vision (originally titled "Öinen karkelokuva" ["Night Revels"]) (1911)
  • Op. 12 - Kuusi Pianokappaletta [Six Pieces for Piano] (1912)
  • Op. 13 – Six songs for mixed choir (1910)
  • Op. 15 – Kullervo, symphonic poem (1913)
  • Op. 17 - Pianosävellyksiä [Three Pieces for Piano](1912)
  • Op. 18 – Sonatina for violin & piano, Op. 18 (1913)
  • Op. 21 - Pienoiskuvia pianolle [Miniatures for Piano] (1914)
  • Op. 23 – Nine Songs for male voice choir (1912–16)
  • Op. 29 – Symphony No. 1 (1914–16)
  • Op. 31 - Pieniä Pianokappaleita [Four Small Pieces for Piano](1915)
  • Op. 33 – Eight Songs for male voice choir (1916–19)
  • Op. 34 – Pastoral Suite (1916)
  • Op. 35 – Symphony No. 2 (1916–18)
  • Op. 36 - Romance sans paroles [Romance Without Words] for voice & piano
  • Op. 37 – Aslak Smaukka, symphonic poem (1917)
  • Op. 39 – Five Songs for male voice choir (1919–21)
  • Op. 41 – Kuoleman puutarha [The Garden of Death], suite for piano (1918–21)
  • Op. 44 – Four Songs (1919)
  • Op. 45 – The Ostrobothnians, opera in three acts (1918–23)
  • Op. 46 – Väinämöisen kylvö [Väinämöisen Sows the Wilderness], symphonic poem for voice & orchestra (1920)
  • Op. 49 – Five Songs (1920)
  • Op. 50 - Hopes & Dreams for chorus
  • Op. 51 – Lyric Suite for cello & piano (1922)
  • Op. 52 – Ostrobothnian Suite (1923)
  • Op. 53 – Comedy Overture (1923)
  • Op. 55 – Symphony No. 3 in A major (1922–26)
  • Op. 56 – De Profundis for male voice choir (1925)
  • Op. 57 - Three Folk Songs for chorus
  • Op. 58 – Okon Fuoko, ballet in one act (1925–27)
  • Op. 65 - Pianosävellyksiä [Piano Pieces] (1931)
  • Op. 67 – Three Pieces for brass septet (1929)
  • Op. 68 – Autumn, song cycle to poems by L. Oneva (1930)
  • Op. 69 – Overture Fantasy for brass (1930)
  • Op. 73 - Karitsan lippu, cantata for chorus & organ (1934)
  • Op. 74 – Juha, opera in six tableaux (1934)
  • Op. 77 – Rustic Scenes, Suite from the film score "Taistelu Heikkilän talosta" ("The Struggle for the Homestead") (1936)
  • Op. 78 – A Wreath of Songs, cantata (1938)
  • Op. 81 – Seven Choral Songs (1945–46)
  • Op. 82 – Two Songs for mixed choir (1946)

Notes, references, and sources[edit]


  1. ^ For example, Martin Wegelius, wrote in Helsingin Sanomat: "Rarely it is possible to return from a first-timer's concert with such great feelings of satisfaction. Indeed very few of us Finns are equipped with such extensive spiritual gifts, that he is able to 'break through' with those so quickly, to conquer the audience in only one evening. Leevi Madetoja did it yesterday and did it in a way which can only be called unique".[6]
  2. ^ According to Madetoja, Sibelius's reputation carried particular weight with Fuchs. Madetoja wrote to Sibelius on 9 November 1911: "Prof. Fuchs is very friendly towards me, and I immediately recognized that it is largely because of your recommendation".[7]
  3. ^ Three other composers—Filip von Schantz, Kajanus, and Sibelius—had earlier tackled the subject of Kullervo. Certainly, the most famous is Sibelius's Op. 7 choral-symphony, written in 1892. Madetoja, however, could not have been familiar with his teacher's Kullervo, as Sibelius had withdrawn it in March 1893 after only a handful of performances.[12] Unlike Sibelius, who returned to the Kalevala for inspiration many times (e.g., the Lemminkäinen Suite, 1895; Pohjola's Daughter, 1906; Luonnotar, 1913; Tapiola, 1926, etc.), Kullervo represents Madetoja's lone attempt to set the Kalevala to music—or so many sources claim.[13] However, Madetoja also composed two other tone poems apparently based on Kalevalic themes: The Abduction of the Sampo, Op. 24 (1915), for baritone, male choir, and strings; and, Väinämöinen Sows the Wilderness, Op. 46 (1920), for soprano (or tenor) and orchestra.
  4. ^ To honor his fallen friend, Madetoja wrote obituaries and, later, took it upon himself to complete four of Kuula's unfinished works, each of which he wished to remain exclusively attributed to Kuula:[19] a Stabat mater, for mixed chorus and orchestra; Karavaanikuoro (Choir of Caravan), Op. 21/1, adapted into a performing version for mixed chorus and orchestra;[20] Meren virsi (Song of the Sea), Op. 11/2, arranged for mixed chorus and orchestra (2222/4331/11/0/strings) and transposed down into (the more manageable key of) C-sharp minor (fp. 19 November 1920 by Suomen Laulu (fi));[21][22] and, Virta venhettä vie (The Stream Carries the Boat), Op. 4/5, arranged for mixed chorus.[23] Madetoja also intended to author Kuula's biography with Toivo Tarvas (fi), but the project never came to fruition.[19]
  5. ^ At the time, Sibelius had written five symphonies, although the Fifth Symphony had not yet reached its definitive form, which arrived in 1919.
  6. ^ Sibelius later would take on Bengt de Törne (fi) as a third (and final) student. In 1958, De Törne published his reflections of Sibelius as a techer in Sibelius: A Close-Up.
  7. ^ Sibelius seems to have discounted his own pedagogical skills, reportedly telling Madetoja, "I am a bad teacher".[38] Indeed, Sibelius had been abroad in the spring of 1909, leaving Madetoja to compose his diploma work, the Piano Trio, Op. 1, in his teacher's absence![2]
  8. ^ While staying at Lake Keitele in 1915, Madetoja wrote to Sibelius asking for his blessing: "Next Christmas—when you celebrate your fiftieth birthday—I plan to write a book about you and your musical achievements up to the present. Would you have any objections to this? Or would you not consider me suitable for such a task? I appreciate that this is a delicate matter—it would in fact be the very first attempt at the subject in the Finnish language, and I can assure you that I would try my very best to do justice to it". [51]


  1. ^ a b c d e Pulliainen (2000a), p. 4
  2. ^ a b c d e f Salmenhaara (2011)
  3. ^ Hillila & Hong (1997), p. 243–45
  4. ^ Hillila & Hong (1997), p. 243
  5. ^ a b c d Pulliainen (2000b), p. 4
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h Pulliainen (2000b), p. 5
  7. ^ a b Mäkelä (2011), p. 71
  8. ^ a b Hillila & Hong (1997), p. 244
  9. ^ a b c d Pulliainen (2000c), p. 4
  10. ^ Tawaststjerna (1986), p. 212–13, 231
  11. ^ Tawaststjerna (1986), p. 231
  12. ^ Tawaststjerna (1976), p. 120–21
  13. ^ Korhonen, works (2013)
  14. ^ Tawaststjerna (1997), p. 50
  15. ^ a b c Pulliainen (2000c), p. 5
  16. ^ a b c Tawaststjerna (1997), p. 81
  17. ^ a b c Rännäli (2000), p. 6–7
  18. ^ a b Pulliainen (2000a), p. 6
  19. ^ a b Salmenhaara (1987), p. 173
  20. ^ Mäntyjärvi & Mäntyjärvi (2010), p. 18
  21. ^ Tommila (2011), p. 22–23
  22. ^ Viitasalo (2013), p. 36
  23. ^ Viitasalo (2013), p. 49
  24. ^ a b Salmenhaara (1992b), p. 5
  25. ^ Hillila & Hong (1997), p. 432–33
  26. ^ Hillila & Hong (1997), p. 292–94
  27. ^ Hillila & Hong (1997), p. 69
  28. ^ Hillila & Hong (1997), p. 159
  29. ^ a b Pulliainen (2001), p. 4
  30. ^ Hillila & Hong (1997), p. 245
  31. ^ a b c d Salmenhaara (1986)
  32. ^ Salmenhaara (1992a)
  33. ^ a b Pulliainen (2001), p. 5
  34. ^ a b Salmenhaara (1987), p. 350
  35. ^ a b Salmenhaara (1987), p. 351
  36. ^ a b Salmenhaara (1987), p. 352
  37. ^ Tawaststjerna (1986), p. 133
  38. ^ a b Ekman (1938), p. 141
  39. ^ a b Tawaststjerna (1986), p. 132, 134
  40. ^ a b Tawaststjerna (1986), p. 133–134
  41. ^ Tawaststjerna (1997), p. 100
  42. ^ a b Korhonen (2013a), p. 4
  43. ^ a b Tawaststjerna (1986), p. 134
  44. ^ Ekman (1938), p. 139–42
  45. ^ Tawaststjerna (1997), p. 140
  46. ^ Goss (2009), p. 351
  47. ^ Kilpeläinen (2012), p. x
  48. ^ Tawaststjerna (1997), p. 111
  49. ^ Tawaststjerna (1997), p. 179
  50. ^ Tawaststjerna (1997), p. 93
  51. ^ a b Tawaststjerna (1997), p. 64–65
  52. ^ Tawaststjerna (1997), p. 65
  53. ^ Tawaststjerna (1997), p. 69
  54. ^ a b Trotter (2006), p. 136–137
  55. ^ Godell (2001), p. 126–127
  56. ^ Vroon (2000), p. 176
  57. ^ Hautala (1982), p. 344–46
  58. ^ Suomen Säveltäjät (2015)
  59. ^ Korhonen, Kimmo (2000). "Orchestral Works of Leevi Madetoja". Translated by Sinisalo, Susan. Composers & Repertoire - Music Finland. Retrieved 30 January 2016. 



  • Ekman, Karl (1938). Jean Sibelius: His Life and Personality. (Edward Birse, English translation). New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 
  • Goss, Glenda Dawn (2009). Sibelius: A Composer's Life and the Awakening of Finland. London: University of Chicago Press. 
  • Hautala, Kustaa (1982). Oulun kaupungin historia, V. Oulu: Kirjapaino Oy Kaleva. 
  • Hillila, Ruth-Esther; Hong, Barbara Blanchard (1997). Historical Dictionary of Music and Musicians of Finland. London: Greenwood Press. 
  • Kilpeläinen, Kari (2012). "Introduction" (pdf). In Sibelius, Jean. Aallottaret : eine Tondichtung für großes Orchester (Early version) [op. 73] ; Die Okeaniden - Aallottaret : eine Tondichtung für großes Orchester op. 73 ; Tapiola : Tondichtung für großes Orchester op. 112. ISMN 9790004803226. OCLC 833823092. Complete Works (JSW) edited by the National Library of Finland and the Sibelius Society of Finland Series I (Orchestral works) Vol. 16: The Oceanides Op. 73 / Tapiola Op. 112 edited by Kari Kilpeläinen. 
  • Mäkelä, Tomi (2011). Jean Sibelius. Woodbridge: Boydell & Brewer Ltd. 
  • Mäkelä, Hannu (2003). Nalle ja Moppe – Eino Leinon ja L. Onervan elämä [Nalle and Moppe – Life of Eino Leino and L. Onerva] (in Finnish). Helsinki: Otava. ISBN 951-1-18199-8. 
  • Rickards, Guy (1997). Jean Sibelius. London: Phaidon. ISBN 9780714835815. 
  • Salmenhaara, Erkki (1987). Leevi Madetoja (in Finnish). Helsinki: Tammi. ISBN 951-30-6725-4. 
  • Tawaststjerna, Erik (1976). Sibelius: Volume 1, 1865–1905. (Robert Layton, English translation). London: Faber and Faber. 
  • Tawaststjerna, Erik (1986). Sibelius: Volume 2, 1904–1914. (Robert Layton, English translation). London: Faber and Faber. 
  • Tawaststjerna, Erik (1997). Sibelius: Volume 3, 1914–1957. (Robert Layton, English translation). London: Faber and Faber. 

CD liner notes

  • Louhikko, Jouko (2005). Leevi Madetoja: Okon Fuoko, the Complete Ballet Pantomime Music (booklet). Arvo Volmer & Oulu Symphony Orchestra. Tampere, Finland: Alba. p. 21. ABCD 184. 
  • Korhonen, Kimmo (2013a). Leevi Madetoja: Symphony No. 1 and 3, Okon Fuoko Suite (booklet). John Storgårds & Helsinki Philharmonic. Helsinki, Finland: Ondine. p. 4–7. ODE1211-2. 
  • Korhonen, Kimmo (2013b). Leevi Madetoja: Symphony No. 2, Kullervo, Elegy (booklet). John Storgårds & Helsinki Philharmonic. Helsinki, Finland: Ondine. p. 4–6. ODE1212-2. 
  • Mäntyjärvi, Tuula; Mäntyjärvi, Jaakko (2010). Winter Apples: Finnish National Romantic Choral Music (booklet). Heikki Liimola & Klemetti Institute Chamber Choir. Tampere, Finland: Alba. p. 18. ABCD 329. 
  • Pulliainen, Riitta (2000a). Madetoja Orchestral Works 1: I Have Fought My Battle (booklet). Arvo Volmer & Oulu Symphony Orchestra. Tampere, Finland: Alba. p. 4–6. ABCD 132. 
  • Pulliainen, Riitta (2000b). Madetoja Orchestral Works 2: The Spirit Home of My Soul (booklet). Arvo Volmer & Oulu Symphony Orchestra. Tampere, Finland: Alba. p. 4–6. ABCD 144. 
  • Pulliainen, Riitta (2000c). Madetoja Orchestral Works 3: The Infinity of Fantasy (booklet). Arvo Volmer & Oulu Symphony Orchestra. Tampere, Finland: Alba. p. 4–6. ABCD 156. 
  • Pulliainen, Riitta (2001). Madetoja Orchestral Works 4: Laurel Wreaths (booklet). Arvo Volmer & Oulu Symphony Orchestra. Tampere, Finland: Alba. p. 4–8. ABCD 162. 
  • Rännäli, Mika (2000). Intimate Garden: Leevi Madetoja Complete Piano Works (booklet). Mika Rännäli. Tampere, Finland: Alba. p. 4–8. ABCD 206. 
  • Salmenhaara, Erkki (1992a). Madetoja, L.: Symphony No. 3, The Ostrobothnians Suite, Okon Fuoko Suite (booklet). Petri Sakari & Iceland Symphony Orchestra. Colchester, England: Chandos. p. 4–7. CHAN 9036. 
  • Salmenhaara, Erkki (1992b). Madetoja, L.: Symphonies Nos. 1 and 2 (booklet). Petri Sakari & Iceland Symphony Orchestra. Colchester, England: Chandos. p. 4–6. CHAN 9115. 
  • Tommila, Tero (2011). Toivo Kuula – Legends 2 (booklet). Timo Lehtovaara & Chorus Cathedralis Aboensis, Petri Sakari & Turku Philharmonic Orchestra. Tampere, Finland: Alba. p. 22–23. ABCD 326. 

Journal articles

  • Godell, Tom (2001). "Madetoja: Symphony 1; Concert Overture; Pastoral Suite; Rustic Scenes". American Record Guide 64 (2): 126–27.  (subscription required)
  • Trotter, William (2006). "Madetoja: Kullervo Overture; Vainamoinen Sows the Wilderness; Little Suite; Autumn; Okon-Fuoko Suite 2". American Record Guide 69 (6): 136–37.  (subscription required)
  • Vroon, Donald (2000). "Madetoja: Symphonies (3) with Comedy Overture; Okon Fuoko Suite; Ostrobothnians Suite". American Record Guide 63 (6): 176.  (subscription required)


External links[edit]

Media related to Leevi Madetoja at Wikimedia Commons