Jean Sibelius & Veijo Murtomäki
Humanist of the day

Jean Sibelius & Veijo Murtomäki

Jean Sibelius, the most prominent and acclaimed of Finnish composers, is known for his National Romantic works. Sibelius composed pieces for various university events, and he was granted an honorary PhD in 1914. Veijo Murtomäki, professor at the Sibelius Academy, has conducted wide-ranging research into the music of Jean Sibelius and his cultural significance, as well as his political activities. Veijo Murtomäki was initially interested in playing the organ; later came the attraction of music theory and analysis.

Jean Sibelius & Veijo Murtomäki

Johan Christian Julius “Jean” Sibelius

Born December 8, 1865 Hämeenlinna. Died September 20, 1957, Järvenpää

The most internationally renowned and performed Finnish composer

Studies in law at the Imperial Alexander University 1885
Studies at the Helsinki Music Institute (today Sibelius Academy) and further studies abroad.
Honorary PhD 1914, honorary professor 1916, Imperial Alexander University

Key works:
Seven symphonies, a violin concerto and the orchestral works Finlandia, the Karelia Suite, The Swan of Tuonela (part of the Lemminkäinen Suite) and Valse triste. Vocal, choir and piano music, theatre music and chamber music. His last great works were Symphony No. 7 (1924), the theatre piece The Tempest (1926) and the symphonic poem Tapiola (1926)

A list of the works of Jean Sibelius

Veijo Tapio Murtomäki
Born July 26, 1954, Pyhäjärvi

Bachelor of Arts 1977 (musicology), University of Jyväskylä
Diploma in music theory 1980, Sibelius Academy
PhD 1991 (musicology), University of Helsinki
Doctoral dissertation: Symphonic Unity: the Development of Formal thinking in the Symphonies of Sibelius

Professor of music history 1991–, Sibelius Academy
Associate professor of music history 1989–91, Sibelius Academy
Lecturer of music theory 1983–89, Sibelius Academy
Research associate (extraordinary) in musicology 1982–83, University of Helsinki

Research themes: Sibelius as the subject of musical analysis and as a patriot and supporter of collaboration with Germany 1918–44

Publications, research projects and other academic activity

Knight, First Class, of the Order of the Lion of Finland

Photo: Helsingin yliopistomuseo
Written by Veijo Murtomäki and Olli Siitonen (Kaija Hartikainen and Tiia Niemelä, ed.)

Translated by Matthew Billington

Johan Christian Julius “Jean” Sibelius was born in the town of Hämeenlinna on 8 December 1865. He started piano lessons at the tender age of seven, tutored by his aunt Julia. It was not until the age of 16 that he took up the violin, under the tutelage of the conductor of the local Army band. Sibelius, a Swedish-speaking Finn by birth, went to school at the local Finnish lyceum and became thus bilingual. In addition to classical literature, he was acquainted with the Kalevala and the works of Aleksis Kivi from a young age.

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It may be a cliché for a Finn to be a researcher of Jean Sibelius, since that may arouse suspicions of picking an “easy” subject. But first impressions can be deceiving. Sibelius’s music in the juncture between Romanticism and 20th Century Modernism provides an inexhaustible and challenging field of research, since defining the music and the tools it requires are anything but simple – especially since from the perspective of Modernism Sibelius would count as a backward-looking conservative, which while a clear misinterpretation, does require from researchers a readiness for critical debate.

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When humanities scholars receive their PhDs, they face attack from surprising many quarters. Veterans in the field, or others who are just ready for a break, seize their moment and nominate them for all kinds of organisations and offices. One of my first jobs as a freshly-minted PhD was that of Chair of the Finnish Musicological Society, which took quite a bit out of me, as I had just become a father and I also needed to prepare my classes, often into the small hours. I must have been involved in almost a dozen organisations, since if I went to a meeting, I was bound to end up on the board. Only much later have I learnt to avoid these duties in order to leave time for my research – and even for time off, including exercise, which is so necessary but in my youth was often neglected.

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