Finland Music and Cinema

By | December 17, 2021

Music. – With the opening to the influence of European cultural currents in the aftermath of the conquest of national independence (1917), music also experiences, albeit with a certain delay, a period of development that reaches up to the mid-thirties. Both traditional and innovative composers contribute to this phase of regeneration of musical life, which places Finland at the head of modernism in Scandinavian countries: the former, such as U. Klami (1906-1961) and L. Madetoja (1887-1947), refer to national romanticism, under the influence of French music; the latter, including A. Merikanto (1893-1958), V. Raitio (1889-1945) and E. Pingoud (1888-1942), represent a more ” radical ” current, close to Russian modernism, especially significant in the’

The most representative figure is that of A. Merikanto, a pupil of M. Reger in Leipzig and of A. Skrjabin in Moscow, professor of composition at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, whose most notable work, Juha (1920-22), is of such advanced conception as to meet considerable resistance in the conservative circles of his country: it will be appreciated as one of the most important moments of contemporary Finnish music only since the 1940s. For Finland 2004, please check

This phase of renewal is interrupted by the reaction of the more conservative sectors and by the cultural isolation into which the country falls as a result of the Second World War.

Among the composers who are establishing themselves in the 1940s we remember T. Pylkkänen (b. 1918) and E. Englund (b. 1916). The first, due to the attention paid to the Italian veristic tradition, will mark an important stage in the development of Finnish opera (especially with Varjo, “Ombra”, 1952), later not failing to make use of the serial technique (so in Opri ja Oleksi, 1958). The second brings a significant renewal in the symphonic field, especially with the First and Second Symphony, performed in 1946 and 1948.

In 1949 the Nykymusiikki, Society for Contemporary Music, through international festivals, concerts and radio programs, began to spread the most important contemporary European works in the country, and then, in 1951, which became a section of the International Society for Contemporary Music, those of young Finnish composers. In the 1950s, many composers, including N.-E. Fougstedt (b. 1910), E. Bergman (b. 1911) and T. Marttinen (b. 1912), adhere to dodecaphony and serialism.

In particular E. Bergman, who travels to study in Germany, Sweden, Asia and North Africa, appears to refer to serialism in works such as Three aspects of a dodecaphonic series (1957) and Aton (1959), while with the opera Fåglarna (1962), “The birds”), on a Swedish language text, exerts a considerable influence on the music of his country.

Kokkonen (b. 1921), E. Rautavaara (b. 1928) and U. Meriläinen (b. 1930) belong to a later generation.

Kokkonen refers to wide-ranging traditional symphonies: his four symphonies (1958-60; 1960-61; 1962; 1971), orchestral works and chamber music represent an important moment in the development of modern Scandinavian music. E. Rautavaara, one of the most prolific contemporary composers of his country, has gone through expressionism, twelve-tone and serialism, arriving at a neo-romantic style. Many of his compositions, including Requiem in our time (1954) and the television opera Kaivos (1963, “La mine”), have received awards in international competitions. U. Meriläinen remained extraneous to serialism and aleatory technique, maturing a neo-expressionist style. His works, including the four Symphonies (1953; 1964; 1971; 1976), are known abroad.

An independent position is that of P. Heininen (b.1938), who studied in Helsinki, Cologne and at the Juillard School in New York, and who remains extraneous to the conditioning of the public, receiving criticism from the soloists for the difficulties in performing many of his scores.

Between the end of the fifties and the beginning of the sixties the influence of the Darmstadt school disappeared, above all due to the reaction to serialism carried out by avant-garde composers such as K. Rydmann (b.1936), Otto Donner (b. 1939) and E. Salmenhaara (b.1941). The first works of electronic music appear, including the work Ritual by O. Lindeman (b. 1929); works by K. Stockhausen, L. Nono and G. Ligeti are performed, who go to Finland to lecture on new music; a general reform is initiated in musical life, especially in the sector of scholastic and academic education, and contributes to the growth of the country’s music publishing. Among the composers who have emerged in recent years, we should mention in particular PH Nordgren (b. 1944), L. Segerstam (b. 1944) and K. Aho (b. 1949).

Cinema. – The production of films and documentaries began in the early years of the twentieth century with a regular rhythm that was accentuated after the birth of Suomi Filmi, the production house that monopolized the industry until the sixties. The most fruitful period is that between 1933, the year in which the director and producer R. Orko became director of Suomi, and the early 1960s. Together with director TJ Sarkka, Orko dominates the Finnish scene by producing interesting farces and comedies, such as Saltalan pehtoori (“The Intendant of Siltala”, 1934) and Jääkärin morsin (“The fiancee of the infantryman”, 1983). Sarkka is responsible for works of no great value (applies to all of Kulturin Valssi, “The waltz of the vagabond”, 1941), but which won the favor of the public. In addition to being recurrent since the silent era, war and rural life are the themes with which Finnish cinema has achieved the highest expressive results, especially with the celebrated Tuntematon sotilas (“The unknown soldier”, 1955), in which E. Laine tells the tragic story of a group of soldiers during the Second World War.

When the curtain falls on the splendors of Suomi Filmi, Finnish cinema hits a halt. Only R. Jarva, M. Niskanen and J. Pakkasvirta in the sixties and seventies, and M. Lehmuskallio, T. Suominen, P. Lehto in the eighties attract the attention of the public and critics. However, the work of the brothers Kaurismäki arouses particular interest, especially Aki, author among other things of Ariel (1988), Leningrad cowboys go America (“The Leningrad cowboys go to America”, 1989), Tulitikkutehtaan tyttö (“The match girl “, 1989), I hired a contract killer (” Ho hired a killer “, 1990), and that of P. Parikka, who wrote the epic Talvisota (“Winter War”, 1989). Other directors worthy of attention are T. Kassila (Petos, “The betrayal”, 1988), R. Mollberg (Tilinteko, “The final solution”, 1988), V. Mäkelä (Lain ulkopuolella, “Beyond the law”, 1988).

Finland Music and Cinema