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Thread: Leevi Madetoja

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    Senior Member Joachim Raff's Avatar
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    Default Leevi Madetoja

    Leevi_Madetoja_(circa_1930s).jpg

    (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 (1916, 1918, and 1926), arguably the finest early-twentieth century additions to the symphonic canon of any Finnish composer after Sibelius. As central to Madetoja's legacy is his opera, The Ostrobothnians (1924), Finland's first notable contribution to the genre—dubbed the country's "national opera" following its successful premiere—and, even today, a stalwart of its operatic repertoire.

    Madetoja's other notable works include an Elegia for strings (1909); Kullervo (1913), a symphonic poem based upon a hero from the Kalevala, Finland's national epic; The Garden of Death (1918–21), a three-movement suite for solo piano; the Japanisme ballet-pantomime, Okon Fuoko (1927); and, a second opera, Juha (1935). 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 suitcase was stolen at a railway station in Paris. A purported third opera, a violin concerto, and a requiem mass never materialized, their development 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 a number of Nordic orchestras and conductors. 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. Although national Romantic in character, his music is notably introverted, avoiding excesses in favor of the balance, clarity, refinement of expression, and technical polish of classicism.

    Despite grants and a life pension 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), where he had completed his formal studies 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, in 1918; their marriage was tempestuous and remained childless.

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    Senior Member Joachim Raff's Avatar
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    Recommended listening:

    Leevi_Madetoja.jpg

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    Senior Member CnC Bartok's Avatar
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    Recommended listening before No.2 should be No.3. It is a work of pure joy, and as far as I am concerned, comparable in quality to Sibelius's symphonies.

    The Ostrobothnians is a damned good opera, and Okon Fuoko a fine ballet. He's a superb composer, have no doubt.

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    I've always liked to see myself as a grand Madetoja connoisseur. Greater than Toivo Kuula, more fiery than Merikanto, more poetic than Kokkonen, and far more tender than his teacher Sibelius, he's a colorist who went to study with d'Indy but strayed away from the harmonic complexity of his time while retaining these balanced indigenous influences. All of his works, even the brighter ones, bear the imprint of an irrevocably funereal passion. (He was heavily depressed, workaholic and alcoholic.) Also check out Suite Lyrique. Although his music never lost its heart-wrenching beauty, the later scoring shifted towards more lightweight akin to Ruggero Leoncavallo, which is already heard atween Symphony 2 and Symphony 3.

    Juha (the opera, not the sucky orchestral suite) is my favorite Madetoja work - no, favorite finnish work of all time. It's far better than Ostrobothnians. Wish I knew the piano works better.
    Last edited by Gargamel; Nov-13-2020 at 16:39.

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    It's suprising that there is not a single composer like him, if you disregard the orchestration typical of his compatriots. The swedes are either too old old-timey (Berwald, Stenhammar) or too modernistic (Rosenberg) to compare. The closest I know is maybe Joaquin Rodrigo or the last two symphonies of Charles Tournemire, and you've got Walter Piston, although not as poetic, bears some similar gusto (e. g. 4th symphony).

    Edit: Oh, and then I thought alot about Russian composers. But Madetoja has almost nothing in common with the russian nationalists, although both he and Borodin were influenced by Schumann. However, Nikolai Myaskovsky's Symphony No. 27 sounds very much like Madetoja.
    Last edited by Gargamel; Nov-17-2020 at 10:49.

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