Robert Kajanus
Humanist of the day

Robert Kajanus

Robert Kajanus developed Finland’s orchestral culture and, with his compositions, engendered a sense of national romanticism in the young country. He became a conductor of international renown and disseminator of Finnish classical composition, most notably the works of Jean Sibelius. For nearly three decades Kajanus worked as a music teacher in the University. And through his international contacts, Kajanus succeeded in getting many leading artists to perform in Finland in the early years of the twentieth century.

Robert Kajanus

Born December 2, 1856, Helsinki. Died July 6, 1933, Helsinki.

Composer, conductor and music teacher, 1897-1926, Imperial Alexander University (University of Helsinki from 1919)

Director, Helsinki Orchestral Association, 1882-1895
Director, Philharmonic Society, 1895-1914
Principal Conductor, Helsinki City Orchestra, 1914-1932

Conductor, Muntra Musikanter Choir, 1883
Singing Teacher, Helsinki private school, 1883-1884
Director, Orchestra School, 1885-1914
Music Teacher, Imperial Alexander University, 1897-1926
Principal Conductor, Tampere Orchestra, 1898-1899, 1900-1901

Member, Board of the Finnish Opera, 1916-1933
Chairman, Union of Finnish Composers, 1917-1933
Chairman, National Selection Committee for Composers, 1922-33

Professor, 1908
Honorary Professor, Hungarian Music University, 1925
Honorary Doctor, University of Helsinki, 1932

Named after Kajanus
Kajanuksenkatu street, Helsinki, 1954

Photo: Suomen Valokuvataiteen museo / Carl Klein, Atelier Universal
Written by Riitta-Ilona Hurmerinta
Translated by John Calton

Robert Kajanus began studying music at the age of 12. The gifted student was offered opportunities to study abroad and so, between 1877 and 1882, went to Dresden, Leipzig and Paris. His dreams of being a violinist were dashed, however, on account of him being left-handed. Kajanus then directed his passion towards composing music and conducting. Whilst abroad, he met other Nordic composers who emboldened him in his decision to incorporate traditional folk music into his compositions. As a result, Kajanus became a pioneer of Romantic musical nationalism in Finland.

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