EINAR ENGLUND (1916 - 1999)
Einar Englund, a Swedish speaking Finn, can be described as a composer of great versatility: a symphonist, a second-generation Neo-Classicist, a reformer of Finnish music. He was the first major representative of the "lost generation"young men who had sacrificed their youth to the waramong Finnish composers, and the first to seriously challenge the status of Sibelius and Madetoja as Finnish symphonic composers and to guide musical trends away from the uncritical idealization of National Romanticism. However, Englund seems to have remained, through no fault of his own, in the shadow of the great master of Ainola, Sibelius.
Even so, Englunds contribution to the genre of symphonic music has been great: the first performance of his Symphony No. 1, War Symphony, in 1947 was greeted with tumultuous acclaim. This, and the Symphony No. 2, Blackbird, first performed in 1948 and attracting perhaps even more public interest, are in a way a nod of acknowledgement to Sibelius. Both depict the horror and everyday reality of war. Heikki Aaltoila, a music critic with the Uusi Suomi newspaper, described Englunds Second Symphonyin which the flute and other wind instruments play a major rôleas "a sarcastic statement by a rebellious soul on the brutality of Man and our distorted civilization, compared with the purity of Nature". The Second Symphony was gradually forgotten until recent recordings, which have sparked new interest in it. David Hurwitz, writing in Fanfare, described the symphony as a true masterpiece in the symphonic literature of this century.
In 1955, Englund took part in a competition to write a concerto for piano and orchestra, organized by the Finnish Cultural Foundation. He won the competition, with Aarre Merikanto in second place. This concerto, which many feel is related to the music of Bartók, has become one of the most frequently performed Finnish piano concertos. Its themes are derived from the yoik, the vocal style of the Sámi people of Lappland, the same music that the composer drew on for his music for the film The White Reindeer. Englund wrote the work for himself, being an accomplished pianist and above all a fantastic improviser "
The cadenza in the printed score is identical with the one that the artist improvised at the memorable concert where composer and pianist fused into an ideal symbiotic entity," the composer writes.
The music of Igor Stravinsky and Dmitri Shostakovitch made a profound impression on Englund, and when these composers died in the 1970s he was inspired to write a symphony "to the memory of a great composer". Englund relates: "Their passing touched me deeply and prompted me to write a work to enshrine their careers
I wanted to recreate the atmosphere of profound grief and nostalgia that affected me by using musical images of my own memories, partly conflicting, partly ridiculous." Thus, the work reflects not only Shostakovitch and Stravinsky, but Englund himself and his life.