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Leevi Madetoja

February 17, 1887 - October 6, 1947
born in Oulu, Finland, composed during the Modern period
In the generation that followed Jean Sibelius, the versatile Leevi Madetoja was easily among the most important Finnish composers. Like Sibelius, Madetoja composed symphonies that helped define his stature: indeed, his three are still his most recorded works, even if they remain well outside the standard repertory. His opera Pohjalaisia (The Ostrobothnians; 1923) has also received considerable attention, especially in his homeland, and his ballet Okon Fuoko (1930) and many of his songs have rightly garnered acclaim as well. Madetoja employed folk melodies from Ostrobothnia (the region of Finland where he was born), and many of these divulge a modal or religious character in their somber and sometimes stern character. Madetoja wrote in an accessible, though often dark style and was a master of orchestration, known for clarity of textures and subtle instrumental color.

Leevi Madetoja was born in Oulu, Finland, on February 17, 1887. He was raised by his mother, owing to his father's premature death from tuberculosis. Musically, Madetoja did not develop quickly: his first advanced training came in the period 1906-1910 in Helsinki, when he studied at the university there and at the Music Institute, where his most important teacher was Sibelius.

Madetoja's 1909 Elegy, for string orchestra, was an instant success. Though he followed that with other acclaimed scores, including the incidental music for the play Chess Game (1910), he continued studies over the next two years in Paris with Vincent d'Indy and in both Vienna and Berlin with Robert Fuchs.

From 1912-1914 Madetoja served as conductor of the Helsinki Philharmonic Society Orchestra, and then led the Viipuri (Finland) Orchestra from 1914-1916. He remained active as a composer during these years, producing such works as his Stabat Mater (1915), for female chorus, strings, and organ.

In 1916 Madetoja joined the faculty at the Helsinki Music Institute and at the same time began writing music criticism for the popular daily newspaper Helsingin sanomat. In 1926 Madetoja composed what many consider his finest symphony, the Third (1926), a work that has often been compared with the Sibelius Third.

Madetoja retired from teaching in 1939, but remained active in his final years as a composer. The Fourth Symphony, supposedly complete in manuscript form, might well have further solidified Madetoja's reputation, but it vanished when the briefcase that held it was stolen in a French railway station. Madetoja died in Helsinki on October 6, 1947. ~ Robert Cummings, Rovi
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