LOUIS SPOHR. The teacher of

FREDERIK PACIUS, the "father of the Finnish music"

  Fredrik Pacius (1809–1891) has been given the honorific ‘the father of Finnish music’, due probably as much to his efforts as an organizer as to his work as a composer.
He was born in Hamburg and studied in Kassel; his violin teacher was Louis Spohr. Before coming to Helsinki, he played violin with the Royal Court Orchestra in Stockholm. In Helsinki, he held the post of music teacher at the University from 1835 to 1867, but he also acted as an organizer in all manner of musical events. He organized orchestra concerts, often appearing as violin soloist himself, and great oratorio performances unprecedented in Helsinki.
Pacius’s roles as a composer and an organizer merged in the highly successful premiere of his principal work, the opera "Kung Karls jakt" (The eHunt of King Charles) in Helsinki in March 1852. The work reflects both German and Italian opera: Beethoven’s "Fidelio" and Weber’s "Der Freischütz" and "Oberon" on one hand, and Bellini, Donizetti and early Verdi on the other. "Kung Karls jakt" is, like "Fidelio", an opera of redemption with a plucky young heroine. It is scarcely a coincidence that Pacius’s heroine is named Leonora.
Pacius wrote another opera, "Die Loreley", based on German mythology, and a Singspiel entitled "Princessan af Cypern" (The Princess of Cyprus, 1860), which despite its Mediterranean title is based on a story from the Kalevala. "Die Loreley" was premiered in 1887 but has been completely overshadowed by "Kung Karls jakt". Pacius also wrote instrumental music and vocal works. His early works written in Germany include the Overture in E flat major and the string Quartet in E flat major, both written in 1826. While in Finland, hewrote the single-movement Violin Concerto in F sharp minor (1845), rhapsodic in form but idiomatically written, and a movement for a Symphony in D minor (1850). Pacius’s vocal output includes cantatas, choral songs and solo songs; he also wrote the song that became the Finnish national anthem, "Vårt land" (Our land, 1848). This and certain other patriotic songs have further strengthened his epithet, ‘the father of Finnish music’.

The first Finnish opera

"Kung Karls jakt" (The Hunt of King Charles) by Fredrik Pacius was the first opera composed and produced in Finland. Its premiere in 1852 was a truly gigantic venture, and because the company consisted mostly of enthusiastic amateurs, the production required no fewer than 74 rehearsals. The production was a huge success, however, and it was also well received in Stockholm in 1856. Pacius revised the work for the Stockholm performances, and for later revivals in Helsinki he revised it yet again on two occasions, in 1870 and 1879.

"Kung Karls jakt" was written at a time when Finland’s status as an autonomous Grand Duchy in the Russian Empire was not yet threatened. The opera is not in fact a document of national awakening but a rather neutral show of patriotism geared more towards demonstrating the faithfulness of Finnish subjects towards their monarch, even though the action is set in the idealized era of Swedish rule. The sheer size of "Kung Karls jakt" as a composition and as a production, on the other hand, is a clear demonstration of nationalist efforts.

"Kung Karls jakt" is not only a historical milestone; it has proved successful in modern revivals too. A recording was released in 1991 to general acclaim, and in the year 2000 it was staged in two separate productions in Finland.

Kimmo Korhonen: Inventing Finnish Music - Contemporary Composers from Medieval to Modern
translated by © Jaakko Mäntyjärvi
Internet version: ISBN 952-5076-42-3 (2003)
originally printed as ISBN 952-5076-36-9 (2003)
© Kimmo Korhonen & FIMIC



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