Einari Marvia in Profile
by Kimmo Korhonen :: 2000
Einari Marvia (Tuusniemi, November 21, 1915 – Helsinki, June 16, 1997), Yrjö Kilpinen and Seppo Nummi were 20th-century Finnish composers who concentrated almost exclusively on solo songs. Marvia wrote over 100 solo songs, some of which also exist in an orchestral version.
Marvia began studying composition privately with Erkki Melartin in 1930 and continued with the same teacher at the Helsinki Conservatory (today the Sibelius Academy). He was influenced by Melartin, and his style was firmly rooted in Romanticism. In 1945, he described his work to date by saying: “Atonalism and all other ‘isms’ have remained alien to me, although I listen to their best products with interest. I base my music mostly on a traditional tonal idiom, and only recently have I begun to expand my harmonic language.”
Composition concerts in 1945 and 1950
Marvia’s first composition concert in 1945 contained instrumental works in addition to solo songs, the Piano Sonata (1945) and the Wind Quintet (1945), a reworking of an earlier Wind Quartet (1936). Apart from these, the most significant of Marvia’s few instrumental works is the tone poem Taru (Saga, 1940), his only extensive orchestral work.
Marvia’s second composition concert in 1950 reflected his focusing on vocal music; there were no instrumental works on the programme. The scale of expression in his vocal music expanded from his early Romanticism to Impressionism and a refined form of Expressionism, with some exotic elements included. Marvia wrote both individual songs and song cycles. Kuusi laulua Katri Valan sanoihin (Six songs to poems by Katri Vala, 1950-1952) is considered (and was considered even by the composer himself) to be one of his major works.
Marvia was publishing director of Musiikki Fazer from 1946 to 1980. He initially continued writing songs on the side, but in the 1950s his work took up all his time. Later, he concentrated on research, where one of his subjects was the early history of Finnish music. His work as a publisher and his research combined to produce a series of editions of early Finnish compositions, Documenta musicae Fennicae. Marvia’s major literary works include the editing of the revised two-volume version of Suomen säveltäjiä (Finnish composers, 1965-1966) and the 100th anniversary history of the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra (1993; with Matti Vainio).
Translation © Jaakko Mäntyjärvi