Erkki Melartin

Born 7 February 1875. Died 14 February 1937.

Biography

Erkki Melartin (7 February 1875, Käkisalmi – 14 February 1937, Pukinmäki) was a Finnish composer and pupil of Martin Wegelius from 1892 to 1899 in Helsinki, and Robert Fuchs from 1899 to 1901 in Vienna. He shares birth and death years with the composer Maurice Ravel.

As well as composing, Melartin also taught and directed music at the Helsinki Music College, later the Helsinki Conservatory. As conductor of the Vyborg Orchestra in 1908–11, and despite chronic health problems, Melartin toured extensively (as far as North Africa and India), conducting the first performance of Gustav Mahler's music in Scandinavia, a movement of the Resurrection symphony in 1909 (see the Finnish Music Information Centre link.)

Although Melartin was chiefly a lyricist, the symphony was central to his musical output. He wrote six symphonies (1902–1924) and was the first Finnish composer to bear Mahler's influence. The fourth symphony uses a vocalise like that of Carl Nielsen's Sinfonia Espansiva. The fifth is a Sinfonia brevis ending in a fugue and chorale, while the sixth, harmonically more advanced than the other five, advances stepwise from a C minor first movement – with evocations of Mahler's second symphony – to an E-flat major finale. His musical output also includes an opera, Aino (based on the character from the Finnish national epic), a violin concerto, four string quartets, and many piano pieces. His works therefore are divided mainly into large-scale works for orchestra, and chamber pieces for much smaller groups and soloists. In spite of working in the same time period as Jean Sibelius, he was not influenced by the more famous composer's style, and subsequently his work has been largely overshadowed by Finland's most revered composer.

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