Madetoja, Leevi (1887 – 1947)

Leevi Antti Madetoja (17 February 1887, Oulu – 6 October 1947, Helsinki) was a Finnish composer, music critic, conductor, and teacher of the late-Romantic and early-modern periods. He is generally considered to be among the most significant Finnish composers to emerge after Jean Sibelius, under whom he studied privately from 1908–10. The core of Madetoja's oeuvre consists of a set of three symphonies (1916, 1918, and 1926), arguably the finest early-twentieth century additions to the Finnish canon of any composer, Sibelius excepted. As central to Madetoja's legacy is his opera, The Ostrobothnians (1924), dubbed Finland's "national opera" following its successful premiere and, even today, a stalwart of its repertoire. Madetoja's other notable works include an Elegia for strings (1909); The Garden of Death (1918–21), a three-movement suite for solo piano; the Japanisme ballet-pantomime, Okon Fuoko (1927); and, a second opera, Juha (1935).

Acclaimed during his lifetime, Madetoja is today seldom heard outside the Nordic countries, although his music has in recent decades enjoyed an apparent renaissance, as the recording projects of a number of Nordic orchestras and conductors evidence. His idiom is notably introverted (especially for a national Romantic composer), a blend of Finnish melancholy, folk melodies from his native region Ostrobothnia, and the elegance and clarity of the French symphonic tradition, founded on César Franck and guided by Vincent d'Indy. At times, his music also reveals the influence of Sibelius.

Madetoja was also an influential music critic, primarily with the newspaper Helsingin sanomat (1916–32), for which he reviewed concerts and penned essays on the music scenes of both Finland and France. In 1918, he married the Finnish poet, L. Onerva; their marriage was tempestuous and remained childless.

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