UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

"The mighty spring tide of Finnish music" : nationalism and internationalism in the music of Leevi Madetoja Mahlberg, Daniel Sakari


In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Finnish nationalists struggled to define their country’s national identity while simultaneously navigating two foreign infractions: Swedish rule, which remained influential even after Finland was annexed by Russia in 1809, and Russian colonization, which continued until Finland’s independence in 1917. Inspired by Herder, they justified claims for cultural and political legitimacy by disseminating a written form of the incipient Finnish language, manufacturing a national epic, the Kalevala, and reinforcing the myth of Finland as a homogenous national entity rooted in the natural world. Meanwhile, Finnish musicians sought to advance their nation’s international standing by producing works aimed at the elevation of Finland’s artistic canon. Jean Sibelius was only one of several influential artistic figures active in early twentieth-century Finland. Leevi Madetoja (1887-1947), who lived and worked in Sibelius’s shadow, composed a number of weighty, melancholic works, many of which include national associations. For example, Madetoja’s Second Symphony (1918) was inspired by the events of Finland’s civil war, while his first opera Pohjalaisia (1924) explores a narrative of self-determination and freedom from oppression. As there is little information available on Madetoja outside Finland, this project aims to bring an awareness of his life and work to a wider audience. It begins by situating Madetoja in the larger political and artistic nationalist movements of the time. Madetoja’s incorporation of a sense of place in his output, through the integration of folk idioms and references to the Finnish landscape, is explored through an assessment of his contemporaneous critical reception. This in turn reveals how Finnish audiences received his work with respect to Finland’s nationalist undertakings. Further, through a detailed analysis of the Second Symphony, this study discusses Madetoja’s style through a demonstration of his twentieth-century adaptation of older formal models and his development of strong organic connnections among themes and motives. This dissertation concludes by investigating the commonly held perspective that Madetoja’s work exhibits to a certain extent a French character, and it situates Madetoja vis-à-vis his colleagues Sibelius and Debussy, aiming at a broader understanding of Madetoja’s international position.

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