Band & Brass Traditions in Finland by Kauko Karjalainen
The oldest continuously existing Finnish bands are now nearly 130 years old. They all have been brass bands in their early phases. To be more exact: they all have their roots in the brass septet, a specific and typical ensemble that has existed in Finland since the 1870’s. One could say that the end of the 19th and the first decade of the 20th century were the “Golden Age” of Finnish brass bands. The important phases in the development of the Finnish brass tradition can easily be divided into clear periods, mostly by following the models seen in the national military bands.
FINLAND AS PART OF SWEDEN
Finland belonged to the Kingdom of Sweden (partly) as early as in the 13th century. The historical documents clearly indicate that Finland, especially the town of Turku (Abo in Swedish), was influenced by Renaissance music when Gustaf Wasa was King of Sweden (1523-1560). He had his own Royal choir of trumpeters, and he took the musicians along when visiting Finland. When Gustaf Wasa established a national army, the position of the first “signalists” was confirmed in the 1540’s. It is known that there were some trumpetists in the Finnish cavalry at least in 1550’s. In addition, the King mentioned in a letter dated in autumn of 1555 that there were all kinds of large and small wind instmments in Finland. Gustaf Wasa’s favourite son John was named to Duke of Finland in 1556. He had his own ensemble but smaller than that of his father.
The low brass – earliest practice
Alto, tenor and bass trombones were played in Turku around 1562. Trombones also belonged to the instruments of the Cathedral school (Collegium gymnasium) which was established in Turku in 1630.’ King Gustaf II Adolf updated the military troops and their music. At the end of the 17th century there were oboes, dulcians, flutes, trombones, trumpets and horns in Finnish regiments.2
Musical development in all Nordic countries was similar during the second half of the 18th century. A typical military band consisted of timpani, two horns, 3 to 5 oboes and 1 or 2 bassoons.’ Harmony music was bom in the Finnish military bands in the 1780’s. The bands grew and could even hire conductors from Germany. During King Gustaf Ill’s wars (1788-90), many Swedish bands with professional musicians came to Finland. There is a catalogue of the ‘Saw Regiment’ (Eastern Finland) band’s repertoire from 1806, which corresponds to harmony music.’
Bernhard Henrik Crusell – godfather of Finnish military music
Bernhard Henrik Cmsell was bom in Uusikaupunki (Nystad in Swedish) in Finland but he left for Sweden in 1791 when he was only 16 years old. The world famous composer of three clarinet concertos also wrote a lot of marches for military bands. One of his untitled marches is today knowm as the honorary march of all Finnish military bands. The initiative came from Arvo Kuikka, former chief conductor and master of euphonium of the Finnish Defence Forces. It was also Arvo Kuikka who arranged the march for large wind band.
FINLAND AS PART OF RUSSIA
The strong development of Finnish bands was cut short in 1808 by the Finnish war against Russia (so called Finland’s war of 1808-09). Finland was separated from Sweden and connected to Russia at this time. The basis for a new development was laid in Porvoo (BorgS in Swedish) in 1809. The Finnish troops were abolished and the Russian bands were substituted for Finnish ones.
Under the double eagle – Finnish military bands of the 19th century
The Finnish military bands were reorganized in 1812. They were at first very small, aprroximately eight men in each band. When Czar Alexander I heard the Finnish military bands in 1819 during a parade in Parola, he was dissatisfied: the soldiers could not march and the bands were not able to play the Russian parade marches correctly. The small bands did not have enough power. For example, the band of the Heinola batallion of Middle Finland had the following instruments in 1820: two flutes, clarinetto piccolo, one clarinet, como di bassetti, two bassoons, two horns, two clarini, two comi di poste, trombone, serpent and a military drum. It is therefore very easy to understand that Czar Alexander I accepted the application for enlargement of the military bands.’
The Guards’ Band
In the development of the Finnish military bands, the Guards’ Band has a special position. It was established in 1819 at Luolaja, Hameenlinna (Middle Finland). On Christmas Eve 1824 the band moved to Helsinki. When the other military bands were abolished from time to time, the Guards’ Band continued as a Czar’s favorite band. Its first conductor (1819-1853) was Joszef Thaddeus Tvarschansky, Bohemian by birth. It is said that he was sent to Finland by Czar Alexander I, in order to improve the skills of Finnish bands. Tvarschansky then would have brought along printed marches from St. Petersburg. The scores are entitled Partition des Marches Militaires des Gardes Imperials Russes Arrangees Par Doerfeld. Partition des Marches MiUtairies des Gardes Russes. Arrangees Par Doerfeld. They are published in St. Petersburg by DALMAS, Editeur du Troubadour du Nord, Grande Millione N:o 43. One book is held by Helsinki University Library. (Signum: MS.MUS. 175.1).
Anton Doerfeld’s scores – more power
Anton Doerfeld (1781-1829) was chief conductor of all Russian Guards’ bands in St. Petersburg beginning in 1802. He brought back Russian military music and collected common marches during the 20 year period from 1809-1829. The collection comprised 208 marches, 40 of them composed by Doerfeld himself/ Doerfeld’s scores are like enlargened harmony music: “Piccolo Clarinet in Es, Dis, F, Clarinetti (2) in Bb/ Clarinetti in C (2), Comi di Bassetti (2), Oboi (2), Flauti grand. (2), Flauto 8“ in Es/ Flautti in Dis (2), Flauto 4°.8°., Comi in Es (2), Comi in As (2), Corni in F (2), Comi in C (2)/Comi in Dis (2)/Comi in G (2), Clarini in Es (2), Clarini in B (2)/Clarini in Dis/Trompetti in C (2), Como di Poste in As, Tromboni Alto et Tenore, Trombone Basso, Fagotti (2), Contro Fag. e Basshomi, Serpent, Tambur di Soldat e Triang., Tamburen, Piati e Grand Caisse”.
Brass bands after Russian models – Tubas forward
Besides the Finnish Guards’ Band there were two Marine Bands (Equipage) in Helsinki: 1. 1830-1863, 2. 1854-1856. They were brass bands after the Russian model. When Ernst Wilhelm Floessel (1819-1874) came to Finland and took the baton of the Guards’ Band in 1853, he had compositions and arrangements for brass bands. There were different combinations of brass instruments among his scores, from 15 to 21 parts.’ Among several opera arrangements is one potpourri from Mozart’s opera Die Zauberflote. It was written by E.W. Floessel in Helsinki, April 4th 1857. The 18-part score includes a solo for tuba found in the famous aria. In diesen heiligen Hallen. The original pitch in Mozart’s opera is B, by Floessel C. In 1861, Floessel being conductor, the Finnish Guard’s Band had to organize its instmmentation to conform to a statute given by Czar Alexander 11. Among the usual brass instruments there were two obligato horns in C. It was difficult to determine what kind of instmments the obligati were until a pair of such instmments were found in the Kuopio city museum in Eastern Finland. They were of Russian origin, like alto (tenor) horns played in horizontal position as comets. In addition, a rare bass instmment exists in Floessel’s scotes. It is Como di basso, placed in the score between French horns and basses. The foundation is very solid: four basses in F, G, E flat and Bb and Contratuba in F. In addition to basses and tubas, there is still mention of bombardon in old Finnish batallions’ books from the 1860s.
Adolf Fredrik Leander, Father of the Finnish brass playing
Floessel’s successor as conductor of the Guards’ Band after 1874 was Adolf Fredrik Leander, the first Finnish-bom person to hold this position. The most common date for Leander’s birth is 7 December, 1832, but this date is in dispute.Some sources mention Heinola as Leander’s birth town, others Helsinki. The place and date of his death is known to be Helsinki, July 13th 1899. According to the parish register Adolf Leander was then 66 years, 6 months and 26 days old.
Adolf Leander grew to be a military musician. His father Adolf Wilhelm Leander served as bandsman in the Hameenlinna Batallion in 1825-29 and as musician in the Finnish Guards in Helsinki from 1830. Adolf Fredrik Leander went to the private school of the Guards’ parish and studied violin with Carl Gustaf Wasenius. He was apprenticed to a horn player in the Guards’ Band as of January 15, 1847, and he was promoted to Sergeant Major in 1856. The abilities of young Leander had been noticed, and he was asked to take the conductot’s post of a Russian regiment’s band. Leander, however, wanted to stay in the Guards’ Band in Helsinki. This meant that he engaged himself with the batallion’s practice in which he had to develop particularly a brass band. Adolf Leander has been described a man who swore an oath of allegiance to four Czars. Alexander III especially appreciated Leander and his band greatly. Since the Czar was himself a keen brass enthusiast, he gave all possible support to Leander. It was Leander’s duty to entertain the Czar and the Czarina when they visited Finland or St. Petersburg.
Leander composed some fifty works himself, and there are tens of his arrangements both for military and amateur bands. He also participated in making signals for the Finnish hunting society. In 1881, he was director of the signals school in the army. One of Leander’s marches is written for signal horns in D, C(2), G(2), F, B, Bb, A and bass horns in D, C and G. In 1885, the first class in horn playing started at Helsinki Music Institute (later the Sibelius Academy) which was established in 1882. Adolf Leander was the first teacher of this special class and continued in that position until his death in 1899. The first elementary book for brass in Finland was written by Adolf Leander, and it was published in 1885. Karl Flodin was quite right when in 1900, soon after Lender’s death, he called him the ‘Father of the Finnish brass playing’.
The birth of the national peculiarity – the Finnish brass septet
The traditional Finnish brass septet consists of the following instruments: 1 comet in Eb, 2 comets in Bb, 1 alto horn in Eb [tenor], 1 tenor horn in Bb [baritone], 1 baritone horn [euphonium] in Bb, 1 tuba in Eb (or in Bb), percussion ad libitum. TTius it represents the soft and mellow sound of conical horns. The grouping in performances has not always been the same, and there is no extant evidence of the earliest performance practices. The stage set wherein the baritone [euphonium] player sits in the middle of the group with the Eb instmments on the one side and the Bb instmments on the other side has heen fairly common.
There is no evidence that real brass septets existed before 1870. Quartets, quintets and sextets were fairly common already in the 1850’s and 1860’s in amateur circles. Adolf Leander’s elementary book from 1885 still includes arrangements for these ensembles. In the 1870’s, there is some mention in papers of ‘double quartets’. In many cases the combinations have, however, been quite obscure. The articles and histories of the time use only the term “bands.” Since the septet consists of horns in Eb and in Bb it can be compared with the similar groupings used in the American Civil War military bands, albeit those instruments were mostly Saxhorns.
The military bands and Adolf Leander handed out instruments to amateurs. On the other hand, there are many documents reporting that amateur septets ordered instruments directly from Sweden (Ahlberg & Ohlsson, Stockholm) and especially from Germany (Erfurt, Markneukirchen, Stuttgart). The brass sextet which was popular in Sweden and Norway may be the early model of the Finnish septet. The Swedish sextet consists of the following instruments: piccolo comet in Eb, comet in Bb, alto horn in Eb, tenor horn in Bb, tenor (valved) trombone in Bb, tuba in C. Johan Willgren (1859-1931), a well known figure in the Finnish septet tradition, who had served as a bandsman in the Guards’ Band in 1879-1900, has mentioned Adolf Leander as the man who established the Finnish brass septet. According to Willgren, Leander added the second comet in Bb to the Swedish sextet. The other well known military musician and an active writer , Lenni Linnala (1878-1947), has stated that the real father of the Finnish brass septet was Leander’s assistant, Antti Ahonen (1845- 1915).
Finland – the land of a thousand lakes, septets and Sibelius
In the early 1880’s, the Finnish newspapers followed the development of the septet tradition closely. Even more, they actually spurred on clubs and associations to establish septets. This can be seen already as a movement which was linked to public education and the function of the National Society for Education (Kansanvalistusseura), established in 1874 [abbreviation KVS ]. Finland was called “Land of thousand lakes and brass septets.”
The early septet repertoire came from two main sources. It consisted of pieces copied from the batallions’ books and from the publications of the KVS. Adolf Leander was initially responsible for most of the arrangements. After 1888, the KVS also started to enlarge the repertoire by arranging competitions for composers. Jean Sibelius submitted a piece called Allegro to the competition – without result. The piece only became known a hundred years later in 1987. In his youth, Sibelius used to spend his summer holidays in the small idyllic town of Loviisa. Before leaving for Berlin for his first foreign study trip, Sibelius wrote some charming pieces for the Loviisa brass septet: Preludium, Andantino and Menuetto. Sibelius composed these pieces around 1891. Other compositions for septet by Sibelius are Allegro (the competition piece of 1889), Overture in F minor (1889-90) and Tiera for septet and percussion (1894, 1898 or 1899). Atenames sang, op. 31/3 (in Finnish Ateenalaisten laulu), the battle song of Tyrtaeus is most problematic regarding its origin and year of composition and arrangements. So far, it is obvious that it was composed in 1899 for boys’ and mens’ choir, brass septet and percussion. Many different arrangements of this work have been made. The septet pieces of Sibelius are also available on discs (Alba, Finland; Bluebell of Sweden; Hyperion, London).
In the 1880’s, a very typical genre of septet pieces were potpourris of Finnish folk music. KVS published them among its scores. The potpourri model remained in the septet repertoire, and some of the most conservative septets continue to play them today.
Septets and brass bands at the beginning of the 20th century
When the Guards’ Band was abolished as the last of the Finnish military bands in 1905, there were suddenly a large number of unemployed musicians. This situation instigated a strong movement in towns and villages. The old bands hired professional conductors and players. The factories even competed for the best players. In Helsinki and Turku, large brass bands were formed which were supported by private organizations. In 1901, Alexei Apostol, then conductor of the Guards’ Band, withdrew his allegiance from the army as protest against the abolition of the military bands. He called the Guards’ best players to a new band called Helsingin Tcyrvisoittokunta (Helsinki Brass Band) which started its activity (probably) at the beginning of 1902. It consisted of about 30 players, including clarinets. At the same time a new band called Turun Torvisoittokunta/Abo Homorkester started in Turku with Karl Fredrik Lind6n as conductor. 20 military musicians were hired immediately, although they were still on duty. The band was going on tour in 1902, right away after its formation. The tour lasted until 1904, with the band playing in some 40 German towns, as well as in Scandinavia. This brass band included two separate septets. Two prominent septet men were members of the Turku band, namely Karl Vasama (former Wallenius) and Vaino Tuominen.
In 1908, Johan Willgren, who is also a central name in the Finnish septet tradition, travelled to Scandinavia and Germany and studied wind bands. As a result of this study trip he established a band in the city of Viipuri (Finnish territory ceded to the Soviet Union in 1945). Willgren’s band, including flutes and clarinets, was quite new for Finnish audiences who were used to the comet sound. Willgren was probably the first arranger who enlarged the brass septet by adding two clarinets, extra alto [tenorjand tenor horn [baritone], tuba in Bb and percussion instmments, all ad libitum.
The contribution of Alexei Apostol to septet playing
Alexei Apostol (January 6, 1866, Athens – June 20, 1927, Helsinki) is somehow a legendary person in the history of the Finnish musical life in general and in the brass playing tradition in particular. Alexei Apostol’s parents moved to Gallipoli in Bulgaria and on further to Turkey, close to San Stefano. They were killed in the Turkish war in 1877-78. The Finnish Guards, as part of the Russian Czars’ army, participated in the war. Some Finnish soldiers took care of Alexei who was orphaned, and he came back to Finland with the Guards’ batallion to Helsinki. Adolf Leander let the boy be an apprentice in the Guards’ Band. Apostol studied music theory, choral singing, French horn, and piano playing at the Helsinki Music Institute. He completed his studies in Germany and Austria. After Leander’s death in 1899, Apostol became his successor both as conductor of the Guards’ Band and as teacher of brass instruments at the Helsinki Music Institute (1899-1912). At the beginning of the 20th century Apostol advanced Finnish brass septet playing significantly. In 1914-18, Apostol worked for the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra as manager. In 1917, Finland became independent and the army bands were reorganized. Alexei Apostol who had withdrawn from the army in 1901 came back and served as the chief conductor of the Finnish military bands until his death.
Besides his activity with the Helsingin Torvisoittokunta Alexei Apostol started a private music business in Helsinki in 1901. A. Apostol’s music shop delivered and sold all kinds of musical instmments and sheet music. In 1910, he had a sales catalogue of 30 pages including 37 volumes of septet music. This collection called “A. Apostol’s Score Library” was of great importance for amateur bands. In addition to septets, it also included arrangements for ten-piece bands.
Apostol also sold septet instmments under his own brand name. There has been much discussion about the origin of these instmments. According to an article written by Karl Hjelt in the Swedish language music magazine Jidning for musik in 1911, Apostol had started manufacrnring brass instmments of his own design sometime in 1906 or 1907. Hjelt describes in his article how the instmments were made from raw materials under the supervision of a German master.® Heikki Moisio, trombonist in Turku Philharmonic and collector of brass instmments, told me that there was a German or Bohemian master named Wenzel Mirsch working for Apostol from 1908 to 1917. Wenzel Mirsch established his own company in 1924. In the interim period, he worked for R.E. Westerlund. When Fazer Music took over the Westerlund company it also sold Apostol’s horns. In his catalogue, Alexei Apostol also published testimonials from the prominent septet leaders who all praised the good quality and excellent pitch of Apostol’s instmments.
The golden era of the brass septets in the 1910s
A. Apostol’s succesfiil selling of septet horns and scores might be one reason for the real “Golden Age of Septets” in the 1910s. It might also be that Apostol simply sensed the possibility of a good thing, commercially speaking. In other words, the development of septet playing was just moving faster and faster at that time. Acmally, it was the first years of the 20th century that prepared the “Golden Era.” On the other hand, there were other reasons too, such as seaside resort life and the need for all kinds of entertainment. There were a lot of rich foreigners in Finnish towns such as Naantali, Hanko, Loviisa, Lappeenranta and Savonlinna. The proximity of St. Petersburg drew them to Russia as well. People liked to listen to septets playing popular mnes and the dance music which was in fashion. In the 1910s, there were at least four excellent septet-based brass bands in Helsinki: Helsingin Torvisoittokunta conducted by Apostol, and the bands of postal workers’ trade union and of the fire brigade. All of them had players from the old Guards’ Band. The “Golden Era” was also supported by Kansanvalistusseura with its festivals and competitions. After Sibelius, Armas Jamefelt (1869-1958) was the next prominent figure to compose music for septets. Leevi Madetoja (1887-1947), who is known as composer of Pohjalaisia, the national opera of Finland, also wrote some good pieces for septet. First he arranged his own festival march from the incidental music Shakkipeli, ‘Chess.’ It was meant for the KansanvaUstusseura’s festival in 1911. Madetoja’s other septet pieces, published also by Kansanvalistusseura are: Intermezzo (1912), Barcarola (1929) and Tanssikulu (1929). Madetoja’s friend, Toivo Kuula (1883-1918), composed two pieces which can also be played by an enlarged brass septet. These pieces, also published by Kansanvalistusseura are: VuoreUa and Soitto (1914). Toivo Kuula, whose fate was to die tragically in Viipuri in 1918, shot by a compatriot, had even established a brass septet in Central-Finland.
Changes in the music culture in the 1920s and 1930s – supersession of the brass bands
In spite of the cultural changes (which in some ways were actually radical) the septets were still needed in the 1920s and in the 1930s. In addition to Kansanvdistusseura and Svenska Folkskolans Vanner, a new organization for amateur players was founded in 1920. It was the Finnish Workers’ Music League (Suomen Tyovden MusUkkUiitto – STM). From the very beginning, it was an excellent ground for septet music. It was no wonder, in that one of its leading figures was Sikstus Bernhard Lundelin, a former military musician and a highly appreciated arranger. The STM published its own series of septet pieces.
Although in Finland, as elsewhere in the world, there was a breakthrough of jazz and dance music, there were no proper orchestras to play such music in the 1920s. Thusy-the septets had to do it as best they could. Septets were also needed in cinemas to play for silent films. Important changes also occurred in the army bands in the 1920s. In 1923, a special committee was set up to reorganize the bands. Lenni Linnala was called on to be secretary of this committee. As conductor of the White Guards’ Regimental Band, in 1925 he was authorized to test different combinations of instruments. In 1926, these activities led to a command to change all the old instrumentations to a new instrumentation which included a lot of woodwinds. There has been speculation that these new instrumentations may have been influenced by the American models that existed at the time. According to these assumptions, Lenni Linnala took the idea from the American-Finnish wind bands touring in Finland at that time. True, there were at least three large bands, Humina, Louhi and Suomi visiting Helsinki, Viipuri and other towns in the 1920s. On the other hand, in 1918, a suggestion had already been made by Aatto A. Liljestrom (first head of the military bands of independent Finland) to establish large wind orchestras.
The new rise of brass playing in Finland
In the 1950’s, the trend among Finnish wind bands was towards large Americanstyle combinations, and the septets were regarded as old fashioned, especially the repertoire they played. However, the brass septet tradition was never totally broken in Finland. In the 1970’s, there was a growing interest in finding old septet pieces and arranging them differently. People were fond of the septet sound and the old pieces. In professional circles, too, this was noted and many organizations began to regard the brass septet tradition as a national treasure. It will be saved alongside the modem wind orchestras, as both can be seen in many towns today. The modem septets are willing to use very similar instmments to those which formed the septet in the 19th century. It may be that the mellow sound of the conical horns of the comet family suits the stressed people of today.
One fine example of the brass revival is the Toolo Brass in Helsinki, a band after the British model, which celebrated its 20th anniversary in January 2001. In 1980, the first Lieksa Brass Week in Eastern Finland near the Russian border was organized. From the very beginning the brass septet has been in Lieksa every year in some form: in concerts, in courses, in exhibitions, in lectures, or in dance evenings. On the other hand, the high level of current education in Finnish music schools together with many master courses give a variety of possibilities to young players. Lieksa Brass Week, the Finnish Association of Brass Players and the new base in Lahti are an excellent combination toward continuous development.
©Kauko Karjalainen 2001
1. Fabian Dahlstrom, Prolog till Sret 1790, p. 100. Turun Soitannollinen Seura 200 vuotta. Musikaliska Sdllskapet i Abo 200 dr, (Turku, 1990).
2. Arvo Viljanti, Vakinaisen sotamiehenpidon sovelluttaminen Suomessa 1600-luvun lopulla. Erityisesti silmallapitaen Tumn laanin jalkavakirykmenttia. Lisid Vdriruxis- Suomen historiaan 3, (Turku, 1935). 3. Dahlstrom, Prolog till Hret 1790, p. 128. Kari Laitinen, Pillipiipareista harmoniasoittokuntiin, (Helsinki 1995). Taavo Talvio, Kenttamusiikista varuskuntiin. Sotilasmusiikkimme perinnetta, (Helsinki 1980).
4. Wolfgang Suppan, Das neue Lexikon des Blasmusikwesens, (Freiburg-Tiengen 1988).
5. The collection of E.W Floessel’s scores, (Guards’ Band), Helsinki University Library.
6. Hjelt, Karl [K.H.], Ett besok i Apostols instrumentfabrik. Annonsavdelning till Tidning for musik 1910-11.
Kauko Karjalainen is a Fh.D arul head of the mitsic lilvary at the Finnish Broadcasting Company. His publications include the history of the Finnish brass septets (1995) and the dissertation on Leevi Madetoja’s operas (1991). He has played trombone in Finnish orchestras and wind bands.