Robert Kajanus (Helsinki, 2 December 1856 – Helsinki, 6 July 1933)
was a Finnish conductor, composer and teacher. In 1882, he founded the
Helsinki Orchestral Society, Finland's first professional orchestra.
As a conductor, he was also a notable champion and interpreter of the
music of Jean Sibelius.
3 Selected works
4 Kajanus and Sibelius
6 External links
Kajanus studied music theory with Richard Faltin, violin with Gustaf
Niemann in Helsinki, with Hans Richter,
Carl Reinecke and Salomon
Johan Svendsen in Paris. His music drew on
the folk legends of the Finnish people.
He worked in
Dresden in the years immediately after his graduation,
and returned to
Helsinki in 1882. He founded the first permanent
orchestra in Finland: the
Helsinki Orchestral Society (later to become
Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, Finland's national orchestra).
He brought the orchestra to a very high performance standard very
quickly, so that they were able to give quite credible performances of
the standard late classical/mid-romantic repertory. Kajanus led the
Helsinki Philharmonic for 50 years, and among the milestones of that
history was the first performance in
Finland of Beethoven's Symphony
No. 9 in 1888. His early-electric 78-rpm atmospheric, authoritative
recordings of Sibelius symphonies are still interpretive milestones.
Kajanus was appointed director of music at the University of Helsinki
in 1897 and remained in the post for the next 29 years, a period in
which he had a major impact on music education in his native country.
He was also the founder of the Nordic Music Festival in 1919. He
received many decorations, including the French Légion d'honneur.
Kajanus's parents were Georg August Cajanus (1812-1888) and Agnes
Ottilia Flodin (1824-1902).
Robert Kajanus was the father of
harpists Lilly Kajanus-Blenner (1885-1963) and Aino Kajanus-Mangström
(1888-1951), and violinist Kaj Kajanus (1908-1994); the grandfather of
award-winning Finnish/Norwegian sculptor Johanna Kajanus; and
great-grandfather of pop musician and composer Georg Kajanus, who was
famous for awhile in Great Britain with his band Sailor which enjoyed
chart success in the mid-1970s.
Kajanus composed over 200 works, of which Aino and the Finnish
Rhapsodies are enduringly popular. He also orchestrated the Finnish
Maamme (Our Country) and Christian Fredric Kress's
Porilaisten marssi (March of the People of Pori), the honor march of
the Suomen puolustusvoimat (Finnish Defense Forces) and thus,
effectively, the Finnish presidential march.
Aino, symphonic poem for male chorus and orchestra (1885)
Suomalainen rapsodia (Finnish rhapsody) No. 1 in D minor, Op. 5 (1881)
Suomalainen rapsodia (Finnish rhapsody) No. 2 in F major (1886)
Huutolaistytön kehtolaulu (The Pauper Girl's Lament)
Kullervon surumarssi (Kullervo's Funeral March), Op. 3 (1880);
contains the folk tune "Velisurmaaja" ("The brother-slayer")
Lyrische Stücke (1879)
Overtura sinfonica for orchestra (1926)
Piano Sonata (1876)
Sechs Albumblätter (1877)
Sotamarssi (War March), with lyrics by A. Oksanen - arr. by Arvo
Kuikka as an honor march of the Suomen ilmavoimat (Finnish Air
Sinfonietta in B flat major for strings, Op. 16 (1915)
Suite ancienne for strings (1931)
Violin Sonata (1876)
Kajanus and Sibelius
Kajanus had a decisive impact upon the development of the career of
Jean Sibelius. He was considered an authority on the interpretation of
Sibelius's music, and he and Sibelius were close friends; but this was
compromised in 1898 when Sibelius was appointed to a university post
for which Kajanus was himself a candidate. Kajanus appealed, and the
decision was overturned. But they reconciled for the orchestra's tour
of Europe in 1900, where they appeared at the Exposition Universelle
at the invitation of the French government. Kullervo, Sibelius's epic
masterpiece, was written in the wake of Kajanus' symphonic poem Aino
although Sibelius denied any exertion of influence of this piece over
his own work. Additionally, as a conductor, Kajanus was responsible
for commissioning one of Sibelius' most popular and enduring works, En
Saga, following the success of Kullervo.
Pohjola's Daughter was
dedicated to Kajanus. When Kajanus took the
Helsinki Orchestra on a
tour of Europe in 1900 both he and Sibelius conducted, including what
proved to be the first performances of Sibelius's music outside of
Finland. This ensured the spread of the young composer's reputation
far beyond the borders of his homeland, the first Finnish composer to
receive such attention.
Kajanus was the first to make recordings of Sibelius's First, Second,
Third and Fifth symphonies and Tapiola. They were recorded in the
early 1930s, with the London Symphony Orchestra. The relationship
between Kajanus and Sibelius was such that his interpretations of the
composer's music are usually regarded as authentic.
In 1930, the Finnish government and Britain's EMI-Columbia label,
perceiving a potentially wide audience for the composer's work,
jointly arrange to record Sibelius's first two symphonies, and Kajanus
was selected to record both at the insistence of the composer. In 1932
Kajanus recorded Symphonies Nos. 3 and 5, along with orchestral suites
and tone poems. This was a massive recording project for the work of a
living composer, and the recordings have been considered definitive
for many years and are regarded as necessary listening in the study of
Sibelius. Only his death in July 1933, at the age of 76, prevented
Kajanus from recording all of Sibelius' works.
^ a b Finnish Music Information Centre
Robert Kajanus biography page;
accessed 29 March 2011.
^ Yrjö Kotivuori, Ylioppilasmatrikkeli 1640–1852: Georg August
Kajanus. Verkkojulkaisu 2005
^ BIS Records : Finlandia : A Festival of Finnish Music
^ fi:Porilaisten marssi
^ Puolustusvoimat: Ilmavoimat
^ Finnish Music Information Centre
Robert Kajanus in Profile by Kimmo
Korhonen, 2000; accessed 29 March 2011.
Media related to
Robert Kajanus at Wikimedia Commons
Fimic - Suomalaisen musiikin tiedotuskeskus Finnish music
information centre : "
Robert Kajanus in Profile"
Free scores by
Robert Kajanus at the International Music Score Library
Robert Kajanus in 375 humanists – 5 June 2015. Faculty of Arts,
University of Helsinki.
Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra
ISNI: 0000 0000 8136 0948
BNF: cb13927040g (data)