1. The Middle Ages
Christian influence had begun to infiltrate the provinces north of the Baltic during the late Viking Age, before 1000. It was not until the second half of the 12th century, however, that these parts became a mission area of the Roman Church, and St Erik and his successors on the Swedish throne began to enforce Christianity on the pagan Finns. The first such crusade, during which Bishop Henry of Uppsala suffered martyrdom, is believed to have taken place in 1155 or 1157. From that date the south-western and southern parts of modern Finland gradually became integrated into the kingdom of Sweden. Churches were built, spiritual life took ordered forms, and Latin chant was introduced. The Roman faith spread to the borders of Karelia, whose people were under the rule of Novgorod and therefore Orthodox. The first frontier between Sweden and the mighty eastern power was drawn at Pähkinäsaari in 1323 (Treaty of Nöteborg).
Centres of Latin chant in Finland were the Turku Cathedral, the churches of other medieval towns (Rauma/Raumo, Ulvila/Ulfsby, Naantali/Nådendal, Porvoo/Borgå and Viipuri/Viborg), the Dominican and Franciscan convents of Turku and Viipuri, and the schools, of which the cathedral school of Turku, founded in the latter half of the 13th century, was the most important. The Dominicans exerted a strong influence on spiritual life, and their liturgy was sanctioned as the official liturgy of the Turku see around 1330.
About 6300 parchment sheets of Latin chant from Finnish medieval churches and monasteries, detached from liturgical books during the Reformation and used as bindings of account books, are in the National Library. The oldest pages, from before the 14th century, contain French and German types of non-diastematic neumes, and seem to have originated mostly from around Maastricht and Utrecht. Sheets from later periods up to the Reformation have mensural notation. Most of the material is still of foreign origin and was probably brought to Finland a long time after it had been written, but liturgical books were copied in Finnish monasteries as well, and original texts and music were written to commemorate local saints, notably St Henry of Uppsala, who had been declared patron of Finland and of Turku Cathedral. Towards the end of the Catholic era two liturgical books were printed: the Missale Aboense (Lübeck, 1488) and the Manuale Aboense (Halberstadt, 1522). Both contain only empty staves on which music was to be added by the priest; the Missale Aboense, in particular, reflects the profound influence the Dominicans had in Finland.
In the cathedral school of Turku, as in schools throughout Sweden, a repertory of cantios – monophonic songs with sacred, nonliturgical texts – was cultivated in the Middle Ages. 74 such songs were published by a Finnish student, Theodoricus Petri Nylandensis, as Piae cantiones ecclesiasticae et scholasticae veterum episcoporum (Greifswald, 1582), including some, for instance ‘Ramus virens olivarum’, which directly refer to a local origin, and 12 set in two, three or four parts. Cantios were apparently popular for a long time. A Finnish translation of the texts by Hemminki of Masku, a country priest, was published in 1616, and a new, enlarged Latin edition, with new arrangements of the polyphonic songs by Daniel Friderici, cantor of the Marienkirche in Rostock, appeared in 1625. Some songs were still being published in the 18th century and later, and some found their way into official Lutheran hymnals.
2. The Reformation
In Sweden the Reformation was set in motion during the reign (1523–60) of Gustav Vasa (1496–60), but not firmly established until the Convention of Uppsala in 1593. Lutheran services were held in churches in the Turku diocese from the 1520s on, and Lutheranism was reflected in a number of manuscripts, such as the Mathiae Joannis Westh Codex of 1546, which contains the text of the mass as well as sequences, responsories, hymns and antiphons in Finnish translations. In 1549 the first printed mass in Finnish, Messu eli Herran Echtolinen, was published by Mikael Agricola, and around 1583 Jacobus Petri Finno published the first Protestant hymnal in vernacular Finnish. Later hymnals approved by the Church Assembly were issued in 1605, 1701, 1886, 1938 and 1986.
The Uusi suomenkielinen wirsi-kirja (‘New Finnish Hymnal’) of 1701 was later nicknamed ‘Vanha virsikirja’ (‘Old Hymnal’) on account of its lasting popularity, and was supplemented in 1702 by Yxi tarpelinen nuotti-kirja (‘A Necessary Notebook’), a collection of chorale melodies modelled after Then swenska psalmboken of 1697. Prior to this publication manuscript collections, such as the Kangasalan koraalikirja (‘Kangasala Chorale Book’) of 1624, were used in many churches, and in the 18th and 19th centuries cantors had to resort to such collections again, because the 1702 book went out of print and was not replaced until 1850, by Suomalaisten wirtten koralikirja (‘Chorale Book of Finnish Hymns’, ed. Antti Nordlund), the first four-part chorale collection printed in Finland. Uusi koraalikirja (‘The New Chorale Book’, ed. O.I. Colliander and Richard Faltin, 1888), provided melodies for the hymnal of 1886, and the hymnals of the 20th century were given their respective chorale collections in 1944 (edited by Armas Maasalo and others) and 1987 (edited by Kaj-Erik Gustafsson and others).
Organs were bought or built for Finnish churches from the 17th century onwards. Most early organs fell prey to fire or destruction by the enemy, especially during the Great Nordic War of the early 18th century; the only extant one is the Positive of Nauvo (c1664) in the National Museum, Helsinki. Some 30 18th-century organs are recorded, but not until the 19th century did organs spread throughout the country. The instruments of the 17th and 18th centuries were Baroque organs of north German style made by Swedish masters, among them Johan Niclas Cahman, who built a 32-stop organ for Turku Cathedral in 1725–7. An instrument of this size was exceptional: an average organ had only one keyboard and 8–10 stops.
3. Secular music before 1809
Little is known of secular music in medieval Finland. In the countryside there was traditional rune singing and the playing of the kantele and other traditional instruments. In the six towns there must have been music outside the church as there was in other small towns around the Baltic, but the only evidence consists of names (‘Michil pipare’, ‘Nis lekare’, etc.) in a few 15th-century documents from the Turku region. It is still probable that wandering jongleurs and minstrels performed in inns and taverns and offered their services at weddings, seasonal fairs and on other festive occasions.
The professional musician first emerged with certainty in the 17th century as organs were installed. The church could neither keep organists sufficiently busy nor afford them alone, so city authorities generally paid part of the organist’s salary and granted him exclusive rights to perform music in the town and its surroundings. In Turku, music at the university (Åbo Akademi), established in 1640, was the additional responsibility and later the privilege of the organist until the institution appointed a music master in the middle of the 18th century.
Court music existed only in the retinues of the Swedish kings and their representatives. Gustav Vasa gave his second son Johan the duchy of Finland, and Duke John took up residence in Turku Castle in 1556. Some musicians (e.g. ‘Bertil luthenslagere’, ‘Mats fedlare’) followed suit, still others accompanied Duke John on his travels, and the Polish princess Katarina Jagellonica, whom he married in 1562, apparently had some fiddlers in her service. In 1563, the last year he resided in Turku, several trumpet players are mentioned and, after he was taken prisoner by his half-brother Erik, a large number of wind instruments and some discant books were sent back to Stockholm.
In 1747 Carl Petter Lenning, organist of Turku Cathedral, was engaged by the university to establish a collegium musicum, the first orchestra in Finland. Beyond its function in academic life, it propagated music among educated people. When the secret society Aurora was founded in 1770 to promote literature, science, history, the Finnish language and the liberal arts, especially music, a large number of its members were able to play an instrument and soon formed a ‘musical class’ within the society, as well as an orchestra, which gave the first public concerts in Finland in 1773 and 1774. In its wake in 1790 came the Musikaliska Sällskap i Åbo/Turun Soitannollinen Seura (Turku Musical Society), the sole purpose of which was to promote music by sustaining an orchestra and giving concerts. The old privileges of the organists and city minstrels were being replaced by the activities of enthusiastic amateurs, and music was beginning to be considered as an art form.
This happened under the reign (1771–92) of the enlightened Gustav III. The only professional Finnish composer of the ensuing age was Bernhard Henrik Crusell, whose most important works were concertos, quartets and other pieces for his own instrument, the clarinet. In Stockholm, where he lived, his popularity was based mainly on his songs. Erik Tulindberg, a civil servant, composed a violin concerto and six string quartets in the style of early Haydn. The three violin sonatas of Thomas Byström, an artillery officer, show an original musical talent. Fluent in composition also were several members of the Lithander family, especially Carl Ludvig, a soldier, and Fredrick Emanuel, an accountant and piano teacher. Their piano and chamber works are still played in Finland.
4. The Grand Duchy, 1809–1917
In 1809 Sweden lost her Finnish territories in a war against Russia, to which Finland was annexed as an autonomous Grand Duchy with most of the institutions of an independent state. Helsinki was declared the capital in 1812 and soon became more important than Turku, not least because of the disastrous Turku fire of 1827. The centre of the country’s intellectual life, the university, was moved to the new capital and renamed the Keisarillinen Aleksanterin Yliopisto (Imperial Alexander University).
The 19th century was an era of growing national awareness. The publication of the Kalevala, the national epic, by Elias Lönnrot in 1835 (second, augmented edition 1849) directed the attention of the educated class to folk poetry and rune singing, and the discovery of this ancient oral tradition of poetry and music became a powerful source of inspiration for both composition and the fine arts. Subjects derived from the Kalevala intrigued several composers (Fredrik Pacius, Filip von Schantz, Robert Kajanus) during the latter half of the 19th century, but its spirit was not reawakened until Jean Sibelius’s Kullervo (1892), whose stylistic elements are drawn from primitive modal rune singing. Sibelius’s later style is a synthesis of the Kalevala heritage and the 19th-century symphonic tradition.
But archaic poetry could not fuel a keener nationalism. The national anthem Maamme (1848) has nothing to do with the Kalevala tradition; the melody is in mazurka style, and its composer, Fredrik Pacius, who had been appointed music master of the university in 1835, was German-born. That Pacius’s music was rooted in German Romanticism and Biedermeier (he was a pupil of Spohr) did not prevent it becoming nationally important. His opera Kung Karls jakt (1852) was enthusiastically received as a national classic, and he was dubbed the father of Finnish music.
An important vehicle for national feelings was the male-voice choir. Patriotic songs were increasingly cultivated towards the end of the century by student choirs such as the Akademiska Sångföreningen (Academic Choral Society, founded 1838) and Ylioppilaskunnan Laulajat (Helsinki University Chorus, founded 1883), their conductors often being composers as well. Meanwhile national Romanticism expressed itself in instrumental nature pieces evoking birds, butterflies, trees, lakes, rapids, the seasons etc. The language of this music is purely Romantic with a touch of impressionism here and there, and if folk music was used, it was the more recent folk music, not the ancient strand that seemed more appropriate to mythological subjects. Composers in this manner included Pekka Juhani Hannikainen, Oskar Merikanto, Armas Järnefelt, Erkki Melartin, Selim Palmgren, Toivo Kuula, Heino Kaski, Leevi Madetoja and Ilmari Hannikainen, whose works were rarely played abroad, whereas Sibelius gained a solid position in the international repertory, especially in Scandinavia, the United Kingdom and the USA.
In performance as well as composition there was considerable progress around the turn of the century. The Helsinki Philharmonic Society, set up by Kajanus in 1882, laid the foundation for regular orchestral concerts in the capital, and the Helsinfors Musikinstitut/Helsingin Musiikkiopisto was founded by Martin Wegelius the same year. Opera was performed mainly by visiting German companies until the inauguration of the Nya Teatern (New Theatre) in 1860. Performances there were in Swedish; the Finnish-language National Theatre took up opera in 1873. Domestic Opera (Finnish National Opera from 1956) was founded by Aïno Ackté and Edward Fazer in 1911.
5. Since 1917
In December 1917 Finland was declared independent. Sibelius, entering his final creative period, now held an unequalled position in musical life, and composers of the next generation felt overshadowed by his figure and reputation. Selim Palmgren had success with his concertos and other piano works and Leevi Madetoja with his operas, particularly Pohjalaisia (1923), which was received as a kind of national opera. But the national Romantics were essentially miniaturists, writing for a domestic audience which has continued to value them.
The 1920s saw the rise of a new generation of composers opposed to nationalism and eager to open windows towards Europe, a generation including Ernest Pingoud, Väinö Raitio and Aarre Merikanto. Pingoud, an emigrant from St Petersburg, wrote symphonic music in which late Romantic impulses are mixed with Expressionism, symbolism and mysticism in the manner of Skryabin. Raitio’s most remarkable music consists of his works for large orchestra, a couple of small-scale lyrical operas and impressionist piano pieces. Merikanto wrote symphonic works, the opera Juha (1922) and advanced compositions for chamber ensembles. This music represented the ultimate modernism to conservative Finnish audiences, who, still captivated by nationalistic ideals, received it with ignorance if not hostility. Several of Merikanto’s works, for example, including his masterpiece Juha, were not performed in his lifetime, and he and his colleagues were forced to turn to a more approachable style, with folk ingredients in a neo-classical framework. The expectations of audiences were better met in the music of Yrjö Kilpinen, a prolific composer of lieder, and Uuno Klami, whose orchestral music often draws from the Kalevala and other Finnish literary sources, but with the new influence of Stravinsky and Ravel.
In spite of a deep recession in the 1930s, musical life slowly developed. New municipal orchestras were founded in major cities, and in 1927 the Finnish Broadcasting Corporation set up an orchestra, which developed into a full symphony orchestra, the Finnish RSO. In 1939 the Helsinki Conservatory, heir to the music school founded in 1882, was granted college status and renamed the Sibelius-Akatemia (Sibelius Academy).
After the war the nationalism of previous decades, nourished by political threats from elsewhere in Europe, gave way to more liberal thinking. A new feeling was introduced by a generation of composers who had served in the war. Einar Englund’s First Symphony (1946) eloquently expressed and interpreted the traumatic feelings of the whole nation; that the work is related to Shostakovich’s ‘Leningrad’ Symphony is at the same time surprising and logical. Another important source of new inspiration was Bartók, whose influence is audible in Englund’s and Joonas Kokkonen’s works, whereas the neo-classical Stravinsky was important for the orientation of Einojuhani Rautavaara and Usko Meriläinen. The discovery of 12-note composition took place as late as the 1950s, not as a result of a sudden admiration for Schoenberg or Webern, who were hardly known at all, but because the method itself evoked the curiosity of Erik Bergman and other composers.
In the 1960s the music of Stockhausen, Nono, Ligeti, Maderna and others was amply played in Finland, and the composers themselves gave lectures on their music and compositional techniques. A reaction against this line in musical thinking soon followed and manifested itself in many different ways. One group played with happenings, aleatory techniques and so on, but finally turned to leftist popular music; another sought shelter in neo-Romanticism; a third cherished subjects from national history. Simultaneous development in many directions finally led to a musical open society.
The rise of opera in the mid-1970s was an unexpected phenomenon. It started with Aulis Sallinen’s Ratsumies (‘The Horseman’, 1974) and Kokkonen’s Viimeiset kiusaukset (‘The Last Temptations’, 1975), which nourished Finnish self-esteem under political pressures of the cold war era and at the same time gained international attention. The Savonlinna Opera Festival and the Suomen Kansallisooppera (Finnish National Opera, renamed thus in 1956) began to commission new works in a steady stream; Sallinen, Rautavaara, Paavo Heininen and Kalevi Aho produced one opera after another and other composers followed suit. That a new opera house was inaugurated in Helsinki in 1993 was to a great extent due to this creative fertility.
Since the 1980s the expansion of Finnish musical life has been fast and spectacular. A new generation of composers gathered around the Korvat Auki (Ears Open) association and found champions in the chamber orchestra Avanti!, set up in 1983. Most composers of this generation studied with Heininen and some with Rautavaara at the Sibelius Academy, and they closely followed the avant-garde musical scene in Europe. Eero Hämeenniemi, Kaija Saariaho, Magnus Lindberg, Esa-Pekka Salonen and others continued their studies in Italy, Jukka Tiensuu and Saariaho in Germany before heading for IRCAM in Paris, where Lindberg joined them. They all, with Pehr Henrik Nordgren, Jouni Kaipainen, Kimmo Hakola and others, won international notice. Their methods range from traditional to technically advanced; computer applications and live electronics play an important role in some of their works, especially those of Saariaho and Lindberg.
During the same period the general standard of music making has steadily risen as a result of measures taken since the 1960s in music education and administration. A network of about 150 music schools efficiently gathers together talented students from even the remotest corners of the country, and the education of those entering the profession is completed at the Sibelius Academy. A system of state scholarships guarantee a certain number of qualified musicians good working conditions. New concert halls have been built and are scheduled in many cities for the 13 professional and some 20 semi-professional orchestras, among which the Helsingin Kaupunginorkesteri (Helsinki PO), Radion Sinfoniaorkesteri (the Finnish RSO), the Lahden Kaupunginorkesteri (Sinfonia Lahti), Tapiola Sinfonietta, the Keski-Pohjanmaan Kamariorkesteri (Ostrobothnian Chamber Orchestra), the Suomalainen Kamariorkesteri (Finnish Chamber Orchestra) and Avanti! are internationally known. There are also many chamber music ensembles, and choral music, both traditional and contemporary, is cultivated by a large number of amateur and semi-professional choirs. Moreover, Finland had and has world famous singers (from Johanna von Schoultz and Aino Ackté to Martti Talvela, Matti Salminen and Karita Mattila), instrumentalists (from Alie Lindberg to Ralf Gothóni, Arto Noras, Olli Mustonen and Pekka Kuusisto) and conductors (from Robert Kajanus and Georg Schnéevoigt to Tauno Hannikainen, Paavo Berglund, Leif Segerstam, Okko Kamu, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Jukka-Pekka Saraste, Osmo Vänskä, Sakari Oramo, John Storgårds, Hannu Lintu, Susanna Mälkki, Mikko Franck, Sasha Mäkilä, Pietari Inkinen, Dima Slobodeniouk, Eeva Ollikainen, Anna-Maria Helsing, Santtu-Matias Rouvali, Dalia Stasevska and Klaus Mäkelä). The conductor boom of the 1980s and 90s emerged from Jorma Panula’s conducting class at the Sibelius Academy. His successors Leif Segerstam and Atso Almila secured the continuity.
Important to contemporary Finnish musical life are the summer festivals, more than 50 in total, which include all-round events (Helsinki and Turku), a major opera festival (Savonlinna), one for jazz (Pori), several for chamber music (Naantali, Kuhmo, Uusikaupunki), one for new music (Viitasaari), one for folk music (Kaustinen) and one for the unexpected (Porvoo). The Helsinki Biennale (renamed Musica Nova Helsinki in 1998) and the Tampere Biennale are devoted to international new music. The most important international competitions are the Sibelius Violin Competition, the Mirjam Helin Singing Competition, the Paulo Cello Competition, and the Maj Lind Piano Competition.
Musicology and related disciplines are taught at six universities and the Sibelius Academy. The universities and the Finnish Musicological Society have their series of dissertations, and scholarly articles are published in a couple of journals, notably Musiikki (1971–). Information in English on music in Finland can be found at the Music Finland Website and in the Finnish Music Quarterly (1985–).