Symphony No.2, Op.35
Leevi Antti Madetoja –Symphony No. 2 in E-flat Major, Op. 35
(b. Oolu, 17 February 1887 – d. Helsinki, 6 October 1947)
Preface (by Christopher Little, 2018)
The life of Finnish composer Leevi Madetoja seems haunted by misfortune. Sometimes striking, sometimes subtle, this dark undertow continually pulled at the man and his music even from an early age. Each stroke of good fortune seemed to drift into misfortune or unexpected complications.
As a child, Madetoja grew up in a household touched by death. His father had immigrated to the United States in 1887, intending for his family to follow him. The following year he was dead from tuberculosis; Madetoja never knew him. An older brother had already died as an infant in 1883. To support his mother and younger brother, Madetoja worked as a sawmill laborer and street cleaner, among other occupations, before escaping to the University of Helsinki and Helsinki Music Institute in 1906.
At these institutions, he studied music theory, composition, and piano. No child prodigy, Madetoja worked diligently and progressed slowly. His greatest talent was for playing the kantele, a Finnish folk instrument with plucked strings, a type of box zither. Madetoja became skilled enough to acquire a professional model with thirty strings – surely becoming the only composer to master this uncommon instrument. Furthering the folk music connection, after a year at the Music Institute the Finnish Literature Society sponsored Madetoja on a trip to the Inkeri region of Russia. The folk songs he collected there would feed into his nascent musical style.
In 1908, Madetoja was afforded a rare privilege, becoming only the second private student to study with Jean Sibelius (1865-1957).1 Yet Sibelius was no natural teacher. His lessons were sporadic and his methods eccentric, favoring pithy remarks above a long-term plan of pedagogy. Furthermore, Sibelius could be difficult socially, jealous of his standing in the eyes of the public and critics as Finland’s greatest living composer…
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