Suomen synty musiikkikulttuurissa

Orkesterimusiikki ja julkisuus Helsingissä 1860–1910


  • Vesa Kurkela


The article explores the formation of modern music life in Finland since the mid-1800s. The research focuses in particular on how orchestral activities provided European cultural heritage and art discourse to the music life in the autonomous Grand Duchy, the Russian Empire’s north-western corner. The article also discusses the development of music criticism in Swedish and Finnish-language newspapers in Helsinki. Music criticism took on the task of developing musical art-world in accordance with the central European quality standards. An important hidden agenda in music criticism was the education of music audiences and the artistic evaluation of concerts.

The other important issue is the impact of Central European models on the emergence of modern music life and musical institutions in Finland. The most important new institutions were the symphony orchestra and the variety show. In Helsinki, both institutions competed for the popularity of middle class audiences. The cosmopolitan variety turned out to be more attractive as the central entertainment institution. The Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra with the conductor Robert Kajanus, however, was able to keep its position as a prominent musical entertainer with special popular concerts in a high-class entertainment centre, the Society House (Seurahuone). In these concerts Kajanus focused on respected art composers and their minor and often most well-known works. Local music critics supported the popular concerts of Kajanus and his conscious effort to introduce new incidental music by French composers and Richard Wagner. Lighter popular music of the Wiener Damenkapellen and other types of restaurant ensembles was excluded from serious art discourse.

A detailed scrutiny of the music scene in Helsinki suggests that the birth of Finland in music culture took place at the turn of the twentieth century at the latest. This was one or two decades before the Finnish civil society was born politically – as an outcome of parliamentary reform and state independence. At that stage, the key institutions of modern musical life and the value structure of art-world (with art–entertainment divide) already existed – more than just budding. These institutions and structures directed the history of music-Finland nearly until the end of the 20th century.






Kurkela, V. (2020). Suomen synty musiikkikulttuurissa: Orkesterimusiikki ja julkisuus Helsingissä 1860–1910. Musiikki, 47(1-2), 41–85. Noudettu osoitteesta