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Toivo Haapanen

Toivo Elias Haapanen
Born May 15, 1889, Karvia. Died July 22, 1950, Asikkala

Bachelor of Arts 1918, Master of Arts 1920, Licentiate 1924 and PhD 1925 (musicology), University of Helsinki
Docent in musicology 1925–46, University of Helsinki

Professor extraordinary of musicology 1946–50, University of Helsinki
Chief conductor 1929–50, Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra
Director of music 1929–46, Finnish Broadcasting Company
Conductor 1926–36, Helsinki University Symphony Orchestra
Conductor 1928–29, Turku Philharmonic Orchestra
Music critic for numerous newspapers
Founder of the publication Musiikkitieto

Chairman 1948–50, Finnish National Council for Music
Member 1943–50, Royal Swedish Academy of Music
Chairman 1936–40, Society of Finnish Composers

Photo: WikimediaCommons
Written by Riitta-Ilona Hurmerinta
Translated by Matthew Billington

From conductor to professor

The musically talented Toivo Haapanen studied musicology at the University of Helsinki and music theory and the violin at the orchestra school of the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra. After graduating as a Bachelor of Arts in 1918, he continued his studies vigorously, earning his doctorate in 1925, the same year he was appointed Docent in musicology.

Toivo Haapanen on the left and Leo Funtek on the right, flanking the 12-year-old conductor Pierino Gamba on his visit to Finland in 1949. Source: WikimediaCommons.

The career of Dr Haapanen comprised both research and action. He served as conductor of the Turku Philharmonic Orchestra and Helsinki University Symphony Orchestra before becoming chief conductor of the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra. The first public concert of the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra was conducted by Dr Haapanen and held in the Great Hall of the University of Helsinki on October 29, 1929. At the Finnish Broadcasting Company, Dr Haapanen also served as Director of Music for close to twenty years. His passion was the promotion of orchestra culture in Finland, and his main means of achieving this was continuous improvement work with the Radio Symphony Orchestra.

As a researcher, Dr Haapanen was especially interested in the sources of mediaeval liturgical hymns. He not only catalogued and organised the collections of parchment fragments, he produced ground-breaking research on them. In his publication Die Neumenfragmente der Universitätsbibliothek Helsingfors (1924) he demonstrated that the liturgical music of Finland had been mainly affected by French and German influences. And in his book Suomen säveltaide (‘Musical Arts of Finland’), published in 1940, Dr Haapanen produced the first comprehensive description of the history of music in Finland.

Toivo Haapanen in the 1930s. Source: WikimediaCommons / Karttunen, Antero: Radion sinfoniaorkeateri 1927–2002, p. 26. Helsinki 2002.

The determined work of Dr Toivo Haapanen in the service of music and research of music received acknowledgement in the form of a chair as professor extraordinary of musicology at the University of Helsinki in 1946. He held this post for less than five years before his death.

The first professor of musicology in Finland was Ilmari Krohn. He held his chair as professor extraordinary at the University of Helsinki from 1918 to 1935. A regular permanent chair in musicology was established at the University of Helsinki in 1955. To date, this chair has been held by only three professors: Armas Otto Väisänen, Erik Tawaststjerna, and Eero Tarasti


  • Website of the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra. Accessed 14 September 2015.
  • Taitto, Ilkka (2007): Haapanen, Toivo (1889–1950). National Biography online publication. Helsinki. Finnish Literature Society. Accessed 14 September, 2015. Available for free on the Nelli portal
  • Toivo Haapanen, Ylen Elävä arkisto. Accessed 17 september, 2015.
  • Toivo Haapanen, Wikipedia. Accessed 14 Spetember 2015.
  • Österman, Pia (2002): Sivistyksen voima. Filosofeja, historioitsijoita, kulttuuri- ja kielitieteilijöitä – 150 vuotta humanisteja. Yliopistopaino, Helsinki. Accessed 17 September, 2015.
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