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Erik Tawaststjerna

Born October 10, 1916, Mikkeli. Died January 22, 1993, Helsinki.

Master of Arts, 1958, Licentiate of Philosophy, 1959, Doctor of Philosophy, 1960, University of Helsinki.

Professor of Musicology 1960-83, University of Helsinki
Writings and critical music reviews for various newspapers incl. Helsingin Sanomat, Huvudstadsbladet, SNS-Kansan Sanomat, 1943-89
Chairman of the board, 1970-80, Sibelius Academy
Tieto-Finlandia Prize (for best work of non-fiction), 1989

Written by Tero Juutilainen
Translated by John Calton
Photo: Department of Musicology, University of Helsinki

Sibelius and Erik

Erik Tawaststjerna was famous even before his appointment as professor. He had started as a music critic for the Helsingin Sanomat newspaper a few years earlier and continued writing for the paper until the end of the 1980s. He was also an internationally renowned pianist and had studied the piano at the Helsinki Conservatory of Music and Sibelius Academy as well as abroad under the guidance of Heinrich Neuhaus, Hans Leygraf and Alfred Cortot.

It is particularly his personality that has stayed with people. He was one of a kind, but his friendliness and engaging demeanour made sure that he is remembered. The webpage of the Finnish Broadcasting Company has published an article (in Finnish) in which the producers of a radio programme on Sibelius share their recollections of working with him.

His social skills and personality served him well in the University, too. His lectures appealed to a wide audience both at home and abroad. The subject of Musicology flourished thanks to Tawaststjerna’s good international reputation and extensive contacts, not to mention his personal approach to university administration. It is said that when he had administrative matters to tend to, he simply contacted the university’s chancellor or rector directly and invited them to visit him, thus bypassing bureaucratic formalities.

Jean Sibelius’ grandson, Anssi Salmenhaara, expressed it thus: ‘You cannot say Erik was of a particular type. The only thing you can say is that he was Erik Tawaststjerna, all one hundred per cent of him. If you say he was an eccentric, then you miss out on a huge part of his character. A unique person in every possible way.’

Photo: Helsingin yliopistomuseo.​
Photo: Helsingin yliopistomuseo.​


The citation is from Yli-Ojanperä’s article.


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