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Music of Finland

Much of the music of Finland is influenced by Karelian traditional tunes and lyrics, as comprised in the Kalevala. Karelian culture is perceived as the purest expression of the Finnic myths and beliefs, uncontaminated of the Germanics, emphasizing Finland's position between the East[?] and the West.

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Early Christian music in Finland

Christian music[?] appeared in Finland immediately after the christianization[?], i.e. as early as in the 12th century, with polyphony known at least from the 14th century. The royal court in Stockholm greatly influenced Finnish music during the 16th century, when Sweden after the dissolution of the Kalmar Union evolved into a centralized nation state. Hymnals were distributed during the 16th century, with an early collection of church songs (in Latin), Piae Cantiones[?], published in 1582. The songs date from 1350-1450.


In the 18th century, public concerts were established in Turku and Erik Tulindberg[?] wrote six very famous string quartets. After Russia's 1809 annexation of Finland, the cities of Viipuri and Helsinki became cultural centers and opera became very popular. The first Finnish opera was written by the German composer Fredrik Pacius in 1852. Pacius also wrote [Maamme|Maamme/Vårt land (Our Land)]], Finland's national anthem.

In 1874 the Society for Culture and Education[?] (Kansanvalistusseura) was founded in order to provide opportunities for artistic expression, beginning with the Jyväskylä festival in 1881. The festival, organized on Estonian roots, still exists today. In 1882, the Helsinki University Chorus[?] (Ylioppilaskunnan Laulajat) was founded as one of the few Finnish-language choirs in the mostly Finland-Swedish scene. The same year conductor Robert Kajanus[?] founded what is known as the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra[?] and Martin Wegelius[?] founded what is now known as the Sibelius Academy[?].

In the 1890s Finnish nationalism based on the Kalevala spread, and Jean Sibelius became famous for his vocal symphony Kullervo. He soon received a grant to study runo singers[?] in Karelia and continued his rise as the first prominent Finnish musician. He remains one of Finland's most popular national figures and is a symbol of the nation.

Aino Ackté[?] and other prominent opera singers founded the Domestic Opera[?] in 1911. Ackté also began a festival in Savonlinna the following year; this was the ancestor of the Savonlinna Opera Festival[?], which appeared in the 1960s, shortly before Finnish opera became world famous in the 1970s.

Leevi Madetoja[?]'s 1924 Pohjalaisia[?], an operatic allegory about Russian oppression during the previous few years, became extremely popular during the 1920s. At roughly the same time, Juha[?], an opera by Aarre Merikanto[?], was virtually ignored by critics and audiences; it is now known as one of the best works of Finnish opera. The 1930s saw composers like Uuno Klami[?] and Yrjö Kilpinen[?] rise to popularity with nationalist works. Swedish-speaking composers like Einar Englund[?] and Erik Bergman[?] also worked with a more continental attitude. In the 1940s, Joonas Kokkonen[?], Usko Meriläinen[?] and Einojuhani Rautavaara[?] gained popularity and added important technical innovations to Finnish music. The 1950s saw an increase in international attention on Finnish music and soon helped modernize Finnish composition.

Revival in the modern age

Since the 1960s, Sinfonia Lahti[?]'s reputation as one of the most important Scandinavian orchestras was cemented by conductor Osmo Vänskä[?]; this helped to cause a boom in opera's popularity during the 1980s, while the form was increasingly seen as archaic elsewhere. While a return to folk and socially active music was occuring in the United States, United Kingdom, Brazil, Spain, Hungary, Jamaica, Trinidad and elsewhere across the world, the Savonlinna Opera Festival reopened in 1967; this, with the Ilmajoki Music Festival[?] and Kaustinen Folk Music Festival[?], quickly became musical centers for the country and helped revitalize traditional Finnish opera and folk music. Martti Talvela[?] and Jorma Hynninen[?] have become international opera stars, while composers like Kalevi Aho[?], Olli Kortekangas[?], Paavo Heininen[?], Aulis Sallinen[?], Einojuhani Rautavaara[?], Atso Almila[?] and Ilkka Kuusisto[?] have written successful operas, with Rautavaara especially achieving international success. The 1970s saw a revival in Finnish folk music, including artists like Konsta Jylhä[?] and Värttinä[?].

Kantele The kantele is a traditional Finnish musical instrument, a cordophone[?], and was used in the Kalevela by the hero Väinämöinen.

Saami music The Saami (Laplanders) of northern Finland, Sweden and Norway are known primarily for highly spiritual songs called joik[?]. The same word sometimes refers to lavlu[?] or vuelie[?] songs, though this is technically incorrect. Some non-Saami artists, including Enigma and Jan Barbarek[?], have used joik and other Saami styles in their music, while Marie Boine[?] of Norway is probably the most internationally famous Saami star.

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