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Ilmari Krohn

Ilmari Henrik Reinhold Krohn
Born November 8, 1867, Helsinki. Died April 25, 1960, Helsinki.

Master of Arts 1894, Licentiate in Philosophy 1899 (aesthetics) and Doctor of Philosophy 1900, Imperial Alexander University.

Organist 1894-1905, Tampere church of Alexander
Docent 1900-1918 (History and theory of music), Imperial Alexander University
Organist 1911-44, Finnish Parish of Sörnäinen
Professor of Musicology 1918-35, University of Helsinki
Teacher (e.g. Church Music Institute of Helsinki, Tampere Finnish Girls' School, Finnish Coeducational School of Tampere, Helsinki Music Institute)

Commander's Medal of the White Rose of Finland 1937
Honorary Doctor of Theology, Helsinki 1955
Honorary member of the Sibelius Academy 1957.

Founder, president (1916-36) and honorary member (1953) of the Finnish Society of Musicology
Member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music (Stockholm 1926).

Photo: Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura
Written by Tero Juutilainen
Translated by Kaisla Kajava and Johanna Spoof
Revised by John Calton

From folk music to oratorios

Ilmari Krohn was the first Professor of Musicology in Finland. At that time it was a supernumerary professorship, but it acted as a stepping-stone for the burgeoning attention the discipline was being given. It was still largely untried in the academic world in Finland at the turn of the 20th century, even though the University organised plenty of musical activities. In Germany and the United Kingdom, it was already a recognised field of its own, which explains why Krohn travelled frequently to the Continent.

Krohn continued his academic career after completing his Bachelor’s degree, apparently unimpeded by his growing family and his work in Tampere. His doctoral thesis was published in 1899: Über die Art und Entstehung der geistlichen Volksmelodien in Finland (’On the nature and origin of folk melodies in Finland’) examined spiritual folk songs that Ilmari had collected over the years from around Finland.

During the first decades of the 20th century, he worked on a number of music-related projects and compositions, all the while shaping his own theories on musicology. Indeed, Krohn published the first instalment of his work on music theory in 1911 and added to it right through to the 1930s. Topics such as rhythm, melodics, harmony, polyphony and morphology.

In the 1910s academic research on musicology was rewarded a society of its own - the Finnish Musicological Society. Ilmari Krohn had originally established a chapter as part of the German Musicological Society, but it was cut short by the First World War. The society was resurrected in 1916 with Krohn as its chair for the first 20 years.

Not only was Ilmari Krohn a teacher and educator, but he was also a hard-working composer and conductor. Among his most famous works is the oratorio Ikiaartehet (’Evergreens’), which was the first Finnish-language oratorio and based on texts by Krohn’s wife, Hilja Haahti. In retirement, Ilmari took on a lengthy project and was the first in the world to set the Psalms in their entirety to music. The psalter took four years to compose, but earned him respect and praise from other composers, among them Jean Sibelius.


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