Finland’s golden generation has just gone grey

Finland’s golden generation has just gone grey


norman lebrecht

June 30, 2018

Magnus Linberg was 60 this week. Esa-Pekka Salonen will cross that hurdle next June. Kaija Saariaho is 65.

Those guys once lit up the north with their Open Ears movement.

Where are they now?

Here’s a file of old newspaper pics.


  • william osborne says:

    There are a number of other very successful conductors including Jorma Panula, Susanna Mälkki, Sakari Ormao, Osmo Vänskä, and Jukka-Pekka Saraste.

    Finland has 15 fulltime, professional orchestras for a country of 5.4 million. (There are summer breaks but they are still essentially full time.) That’s one orchestra for every 366,00 people. Germany has one orchestra for every 617,000 people, or about half the rate as Finland. Norway and Sweden have similarly high ratios.

    In 2010 Finnish orchestras performed 268 works by Finnish composers.

    Municipalities pay 48% of the costs for these orchestras, states 29%, and the Finish Radio 10%. Most of the rest comes from earned income.

    Helsinki has two fulltime symphony orchestras and a fulltime opera house for a population of 600,000. (New York City would have 39 fulltime, year-round professional orchestras by a comparable per capita basis. California would have 183.)

    It’s no wonder this tiny country floods the world with prominent classical musicians. It has a larger foot print than the USA with 58 times the population. You get what you pay for.

    • Cubs Fan says:

      Finland also has one of the highest number of Heavy Metal bands per population in the world. Higher than the US. Music I loathe more than rap or hip-hop. Just saying.

      • John Borstlap says:

        The Finnish heavy metal bands practice in summer time in the lake districts. The high number of such bands in Finland is born from the traditional custom to chase away the many hughe musquitos by banging two large metal bin lids, in the way of the orchestral cymbels. And so the folky tradition got modernized.

  • Maths Guru says:

    Esa-Pekka Salonen is actually 60 today. (Born in 1958.)

  • Algot says:

    Esa-Pekka has his 60th birthday today.

  • barry guerrero says:

    William, you’ve been hammering on this Europe vs. U.S. theme for quite a while now. I can’t say I blame you. But even if the U.S. suddenly had lots of excess income to spend on such niceties (or necessities, if you prefer), I doubt if a significant percentage of the population would want symphony orchestras and opera houses. It’s too late for that. We need basic, bare bones music and arts education in our schools first.

    I would also ask you to consider what has made Europe a safe and sane place for the arts to foster (?) . . . American intervention in two European blood baths, possibly? . . . how ’bout that Marshall plan that made German cities look like German cities again? Something tells me that you weren’t around for those glorious times.

    • william osborne says:

      Europe had a lively arts world before the two world wars, and then continued it after the war. At the same time, we dismnatled our arts infrastructure. The majestic Boston Opera House, for example, was built in 1909. It has famed accoustics. It was torn down in the 1950s. It was so solidly built that it took three demolition companies before one could be found that could do the job. A parking lot took its place. Boston now ranks 217th among cities for opera performances per year. Similar story in Philadelphia and many other major American cities.

      Under Roosevelt, the Federal Theater Project employed 15,000 people and performed for millions of people. One of the first actions of the new formed House Unamerican Activities Committee in 1939 was to eliminate the Federal Theater Project because they thought it was to leftist.

      These processes of destruction continued unabated for the next 50 years, and the public for the fine performing arts was dismantled, with the results we see today. People must not be allowed to forget.

      • barry guerrero says:

        Oh yes, arts would have continued flourishing in Europe without American invention. That might be true if Germany had occupied Paris in W.W. 1, and kicked the BEF off the continent and back to England. Maybe. But let’s say if Hitler happened anyway, and he succeeded in conquering all of Europe and England. We’d have no Mendelssohn, Mahler, Milhaud, Busoni or Ravel (just to name a few). Provocative art works would have been removed from art galleries all over Europe, replaced by Hitler and Speer’s brand of great art. Jewish arts of any type would have been eliminated. If you wanted nothing but non-stop performances of the standard Austro/German (non Jewish) composers, well then perhaps your ship would have arrived. It would have been great: Wagner and Bruckner up the kazoo (and I like both of those composers, so I’m not picking on them – just the absurdity of that situation).

    • Alexandra Ivanoff says:

      @Barry Guerrero: Europeans OWN their composers and their music! They are proud of their musical heritage and every school kid learns the music of their native composers.
      Examples: every Hungarian child grows up listening to Bartok’s “Bluebeard’s Castle,” and learning music with the Kodaly method. In the Baltic States all schoolchildren are required, from the age of 6, to sing in a choir and learn musical notation. Estonia considers Arvo Pärt a living national treasure. Bonn markets Beethoven and Salzburg markets Mozart like US cities market luxury real estate. Estonia and Latvia have massive choir competitions every summer that far surpass sports events in popularity.
      Europeans believe that music study and performance is a necessary element that produces a civil society.
      Examples of civic/government recognition of its great artists in Europe: Budapest’s airport is named Franz Liszt, Warsaw’s airport is named Frederic Chopin, and Rome’s is Leonardo da Vinci.
      Best example of ownership: Generous state subsidies for opera houses, symphony orchestras, art museums, conservatories, theatres, and concert halls.

      In the US public schools, music training, orchestra, band and choir classes have virtually disappeared, except in municipal areas that have a wealthier population who pay for it as an after-school activity.
      The Grammys acknowledge its classical music artists by relegating them to the tail end of the ceremony – and not on television. One has to go to the website the next day to see who won anything.
      Why is there not a Leonard Bernstein Airport in New York, an Aaron Copland (or Arnold Schoenberg) Airport in Los Angeles, a John Williams Airport in Boston (he conducted the Boston Pops for 13 years).
      Why isn’t there any concert hall or music conservatory (or anything) named after Andre Previn, George Gershwin, Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Foster, Scott Joplin, Elliott Carter, Irving Berlin, or Samuel Barber? How about a Charles Ives School for Accountancy and Composition?
      The US government has chipped away at government support for the arts, especially radically in the last ten years, to the point where it’s infinitesimal and only given through grant applications.
      Americans (in general) don’t want to “own” classical music because they think it was written by white, dead Europeans, and it’s not au courant. The pop music industry is so wealthy and powerful that it has saturated two generations’ worth of young brains into thinking that it’s elitist and far too difficult to understand. The pop/rock/hip-hop/R&B machine has melted vocal music down to a three-chord template with a repeated monosyllabic text. When I tell Americans I’m a music journalist, they usually reply: “Who are your favorite bands?”

      • John Borstlap says:

        It would be quite dangerous to name the LA Airport after Schoenberg.The flight schedules would be organized very strictly and headstrong even in the worst weather conditions, but the planes would bump into each other all the time.

      • Daria says:

        In Dutchess County, a couple of hours north of New York City (well beyond Westchester) music and arts programs in the schools thrive. Equally so outside in the community. The very large (area and population) school district in which we live has long taken greater pride in the orchestra and band than in the football teams, always protecting the music programs from cuts when budgets had problems. A local string program on Saturday has 6 orchestras. I know we are not a total anomaly. My sister runs a string Suzuki school in Temple Texas. Her students play in their school orchestras. Surely these are not isolated programs.

  • Elizabeth Owen says:

    Don’t forget the contribution Russia made. Without their twenty million people being killed we’d all be speaking German.

    • william osborne says:

      27 million people actually. One in every four Soviet soldiers was killed. For the USA, by contrast, it was only one out of every hundred. It was in reality a German-Soviet War with the UK and the USA, by relative measure, skirmishing on the side. During the D-Day invasion, for example, the USA lost 10,000 while the Soviets lost over a million just in the Battle of Stalingrad. One in every three German soldiers died, almost all of the Eastern front.

      These ratios are important because they show that it wasn’t the USA that defeated Germany, but rather the Soviets. We have similar delusions about our arts funding system. People are unwilling to look at the truth, even though it is very important.

      The question is, how does one live with the lies and misconceptions. Does one constantly point out the truth, or does one simply resign oneself to society based on falsehoods?

      • AB says:

        Lol your simplistic attempts to equate WWII to 1+1=2 equations are a terrible bore. We’ll never know if the Nazis were only fighting the Soviets, who would have won. Same goes for Nazis vs. Americans and its Western allies alone. Certainly fighting the Nazis from both fronts at once ended the war far more quickly. And um the Americans were kind of busy in the Pacific too if you know what I mean? Do us all a favour and stick to musical comments, and don’t make any more pathetic attempts to throw out embarrassing simplifications of world history again please.

      • anon says:

        You’re welcome to go and share a flat with Edward Snowden in Moscow.

        • william osborne says:

          No thanks. But I do believe history should be factual.

          • Gonout Backson says:

            @William Osborne
            If you want facts, begin with the Stalin-Hitler pact, almost two years of active alliance (Finland knows something about it), and the 11 billion dollars of the Lend-Lease.

            As for the 20+ million victims, the responsibility is very evenly shared between the two monsters.

      • Derek says:


        Much of what you say is valid but I think you understate the part played by the USA, UK and the Allies. If many of the German forces had not had to switch to the western front they may well have defeated the Russians.

        My father was a gunner in a tank division of the Devonshire regiment which fought through northern France, Netherlands, Belgium and across the Rhine, alongside the US 101st, Scottish infantry, a Canadian division and others. He was also at Arnhem and nobody involved in that would call it a “relative skirmish”.

        His tank was one of four in the first line of advance, during one battle. The other 3 were destroyed with direct hits and a shell landed right underneath his tank but failed to explode. He survived (I give thanks), such is the way of war!

        However, the point that music and arts are a valuable part of our society is very true and support for it is essential.

        • william osborne says:

          I appreciate what you are saying. It’s just that in a war that massive, horror becomes relativized — even if those larger concerns don’t change the horror individual soldiers face no matter where they are fighting. The losses at Arnhem were very small compared to the major battles in the East. 80% of the Wehrmacht was on the western front due to the overwhelming Soviet threat. Stalin (a monster) wanted the US and UK to mount an invasion in the West, but their almost openly stated strategy was to let the Nazis and the Soviets bleed each other white, then go in for the kill. As a result, D-Day did not even happen until the outcome of the war was already clear. I guess it was a good idea, but as a result we have to then admit who played the far larger role in defeating the Nazis.

          All of this is entirely irrelevant to this forum, except as an example of how we as societies often refuse to face important realities, and how that applies to how we Americans rationalize our dysfunctional arts funding system.

          • Stuart L. says:


            Perhaps you’ve forgotten that, unlike the Soviet Union, the US and UK were also fighting Japan from 7 December 1941.

            The Soviet Union declared war on Japan only on 8 August 1945 – two days after Hiroshima.

          • william osborne says:

            No, I haven’t forgotten. The USA had around 400,000 killed in WWII.
            Almost half were in the war with Japan. That means about 200,000 died fighting Germany compared to 27 million in the Soviet Union. In the USA, 0.16% of the US population died fighting Germany, compared to 13.7% in the USSR — a sum 91 times higher. And even adding in the Japan numbers its still 42 times higher. Relatively speaking, we were lucky.

            But of course, for those who lost loved ones, no such comparisons could ever ease the pain, though the enormous losses do help us understand the fear and angst Russian has toward this world to this day. And it tells us about the horror of the 20th century when an enormous sum like 400,000 US deaths is for one of the least harmed countries in the war. Poland had 20% of its population killed — one out of every 5 people, about half due to the Holocaust…

          • william osborne says:

            And in absolute numbers, the war with Germany killed 135 times more people in the Soviet Union than in the USA. Or 67.5 times more adding in the Japan numbers.

          • william osborne says:

            As for documentation of some of the strategic reasons for the late invasion of Normandy, a good example is the statement by Senator Harry Truman in 1941 regarding the Nazi invasion of Russia, “If we see that Germany is winning we ought to help Russia, and if Russia is winning we ought to help Germany, and that way let them kill as many as possible.”

            For documentation of Truman’s statement see: McCullough, David (15 June 1992). Truman. New York, New York: Simon & Schuster. p. 262.

            Churchill and Roosevelt were smart enough to follow this idea. At the time it was hardly a secret, but the realities were lost to anti-Soviet Cold War myths.

            Historically, the Russians often used the same strategy. Catherine the Great used the bait and bleed strategy in her efforts to provoke war between Austria and Prussia. She noted this to her secretary in 1791, “I am racking my brains in order to push the courts of Vienna and Berlin into French affairs…There are reasons I cannot talk about; I want to get them involved in that business to have my hands free. I have much unfinished business, and it’s necessary for them to be kept busy and out of my way.”

            The Soviet withdrawl from WWI is another example. Lenin spelled it out very clearly: “We rid ourselves…of both imperialistic groups fighting each other. We can take advantage of their strife…and use that period when our hands are free to develop and strengthen the Socialist Revolution.” This was also the strategy behind Stalin’s pact with Germany, the hope that France, the UK, and Germany would weaken themselves fighting, leaving Russia dominant.

            None of this fit with the Cold War myths of how the “American fighting man” defeated Nazi Germany, but now the truth is slowly catching up with us.

        • barry guerrero says:

          William, to suggest that D-Day was deliberately delayed in order to put more of the burden upon the Soviets is a bizarre theory. Do you have ANY proof of that? D-Day was delayed until everyone and everything was fully ready. The outcome of D-Day was not something the Allies took for granted. Furthermore, the U.S. did send arms and supplies to Stalin. Of course, Stalin didn’t feel it was enough. We could have handed him everything and he still wouldn’t have appreciated it. He would have expected it. Hitler and Stalin were two beauties who deserved each other. But to suggest that we were deliberately standing back to weaken Stalin is simply beyond the pale.

          • william osborne says:

            At this point in history, the debate about the lateness of the Normandy invasion will continue, but the fact that the Soviet Union did by far the most work in defeating Germany is now accepted as historical fact. The evidence has always been obvious and overwhelming, but it did not fit with the narratives of the Cold War. Even in this discussion, we see how the denial continues in the face of obvious evidence like casuality lists for Germans on the Eastern Front.

            One result of these American militaristic myths has been our glorification of war, and the extreme militarization of our soceity. This has deeply influenced our country’s budget priorities. One result is that we are the only developed country in the world without a comprehensive system of public arts funding.

          • Gonout Backson says:

            @Barry Guerrero
            You might have noticed that Mr Osborne is perpetuating the “Golden Legend of the Soviet Heroism”, systematically lying by omission – of fundamental facts, to begin with Stalin’s very active alliance with Hitler during the first two years of WW II. But my favorite remains his cynical use of the thousands of poor souls shot “for cowardice” by Stalin’s political commissars… Once a believer, always as believer.
            The WWII fought by the Allies – and the one fought by Stalin, are two very different things that just happened in the same place, at the same time.
            Strongly recommended : Vassily Grossman’s “Life and Fate”.

          • william osborne says:

            Just for the record, I find the Soviet Union horrifying, and do not subscribe to any “Golden Age” perspectives. With Stalin and Hitler, it was one monster fighting the other. At the same time, I reject the Cold War myths that discount the nature of the war between Nazi Germany and the USSR.

            “Backson” follows the usual far right perspective in many of his comments of discounting everything about the USSR even at the cost of the truth. There’s plenty to be horrified about the USSR without distortions of the turth, so I prefer a more objective and poltically neutral history.

            Comments like many of “Backons’s” contribute to the reference to SD as the “Breitbart of music blogs.” In fact, due to a preponderance of people like him on this forum, it is often pointless to attempt intelligent discussion of history and society on this blog. The interesting question is why classcial music draws these types more than any other art form.

          • Gonout Backson says:

            @William Osborne
            Hitler-Stalin Pact : “far-right” stuff, not “intelligent discussion”
            Two years of active alliance (including a common invasion of Poland and a triumphal, common victory parade in Brest-Litovsk) : “far-right” stuff, not “intelligent discussion”
            11 billion dollars of American money : “far-right” stuff, not “intelligent discussion”
            Stalin’s political commissars terrorizing troups : “far-right” stuff, not “intelligent discussion”
            Stalin’s murderous strategy and tactics : “far-right” stuff, not “intelligent discussion”
            Vassily Grossman ? Milo Yiannopoulos’ alias, I suppose.

      • M2N2K says:

        Numbers never tell the whole story without putting them in context. For example, comparing Soviet and American losses in the war against Germany does not make much sense without taking into consideration that the former were fighting for their country’s survival against the enemy that invaded them while the latter were facing no direct threat themselves and entered the war for the most part in order to help others survive.

        • william osborne says:

          Not just a war of survival, but a war of extermination. As Hitler spelled out in the never published sequel to “Mein Kampf,” the goal was to exterminate the Slavic people and colonize their lands with Germans. This is why the Nazis let 3 million Soviet POWs die of starvation. And its why Stalin issued a fight to the death order for all Red Army soldiers. If captured they would have been killed anyway.

          This fight to the death order had a significant on increasing resistance during the Battle of Stalingrad, much to the detriment of the Germans. To enforce this policy, the Soviets shot 13,000 of their own men during the Battle of Stalingrad for cowardice or insufficient fighting spirit. (A sum equal to an entire division!) There was no end to the horror of WWII.

          • william osborne says:

            That also means that the Soviets shot more men for cowardice at Stalingrad than the USA lost in the entire Normandy invasion. Ultimately the Soviets lost a million men in that Battle, and the Germans about 800,000 — the entire Sixth Army. And now we Americans sit around an crow about how we defeated Germany. But then, what else would one expect in Trumpistan.

          • M2N2K says:

            Have you missed my point entirely or just pretending to? Either way I am not surprised.

    • Gonout Backson says:

      @Elizabeth Owen
      You mean the Stalin-Hitler pact, of course ?

  • anon says:

    Why am I the only “Anon” assigned a masked avatar? I feel like I’m being tracked.

  • Derek says:


    As you said, this is not relevant to this forum but you are showing a selective bias and then say the west perpetuates misconceptions and falsehoods.

    It is not only about numbers of casualties (all of which are horrible).It is about resources and impact in campaigns. For example, in North Africa, Italy and Sicily etc. there was no Soviet involvement.

    The Western allies inflicted great naval losses in the Atlantic and Pacific. The Battle of Britain seriously depleted the Luftwaffe, which in turn removed that extra threat from the Eastern front.

    I do not dispute your point about the Soviet part in WWII but the outcome was a result of all the countries participating.

    Finally, back on topic, Finland has made a great contribution to music and they had a tough time in the war as well, didn’t they?

    • william osborne says:

      The point isn’t that the role of the West was insignificant, but that about 80% of the work was done by the USSR. The Battle of Britain, for example, was very important, but its effects pale in comparison to the loss of the entire German Sixth Army at Stalingrad. That was where the outcome of the war was determined.

      • barry guerrero says:

        William, please. If England had lost “The Battle of Britain”, they would have had only their line of battleships (and a few aircraft carriers with antiquated planes) to try to repel an actual invasion. That would have meant losing the entire Mediterranean campaign. Need I spell out what the eventual result of that would have been?

        Russia had the mass numbers to lose – it was the only way they could truly beat the Wehrmacht. The U.S. had no need and no desire to get millions of its boys killed off. That does not mean that the U.S. contribution to the European theater was any less significant.

        I strongly suggest you watch “The Longest Day”, because it’s actually fairly accurate to the whole D-Day invasion business. There was ZERO desire to keep men waiting any longer in England than absolutely necessary.

        William, I’m guessing you’re an ex-pat with an ax to grind. We have places for people like . . . no, no, NO, that’s not what I meant. Seriously, I agree that the U.S. has gone off the tracks in recent times. To me, it all got worse with the 9/11 business and the unnecessary invasion of Iraq. But I don’t exactly see our European counterparts lending all sorts of hands to help get us unstuck either. Who knows what’ll happen now.

        • Elizabeth Owen says:

          Just for the record Barry it was Britain which fought in WW2not just England. Britain is made up of four countries and people from all those countries fought and many lost their lives.

      • Derek says:


        I don’t understand your 80% figure (which official source does it come from?).

        For information, von Ribbentrop, Nazi Foreign Minister, identified 3 critical factors to account for Germany’s defeat, in a memoir he wrote when imprisoned at Nuremberg –

        The unexpected power of resistance from the Red Army

        The vast supply of American armaments

        The success of Allied air power

        Further, he stated that in a meeting with Hitler, one week before his suicide in the bunker –
        Hitler said that the real military cause of defeat was the failure of the German Air Force.

        The decision by the USA and Allies to go for overwhelming long range bombing and fighter power depleted Nazi resources and meant their aircraft had to defend Germany and could not protect their front lines and supply routes.

        The huge aid that USA/Britain gave to the Soviets (which I won’t detail here) was acknowledged by Stalin who admitted later that without Allied aid – “we would not have been able to cope”.

        My point is that the outcome of a major war is not explained by single events but by a vast, complex series of decisions and actions.

        • Saxon Broken says:

          Yup…the Soviet Union was fighting on the ground, but supplied by the Western Allies (this contribution was critical). The allied air command over Germany had been established soon after the Battle of Britain, and was hugely important. The Soviet contribution and casualties were gigantic, as was the damage they inflicted on the Germans. German loses on the Eastern Front were partly so large since they could not really surrender (few who did survived the war).

          Actually, much less known is that most of the Japanese army was in China or fighting the British Indian army in Burma (and had been defeated by this army by the end of the war). Relatively small numbers were fighting the Americans — although the raw numbers underestimate the American contribution (as they do in Europe).

          • Derek says:

            You reinforce my points and your other comments are very true.The China/Japan war (1937-1945) meant China lost between 15 -20 million people in total.

            The British Indian Army was called “The Forgotten Army” afterwards.
            One of my uncles fought in Burma and returned with horrific memories of wading through jungle swamps under constant threat from snipers and with intermittent attacks of malaria.

  • barry guerrero says:

    Yes, but that’s Finland, isn’t it? In the U.S. – like it or not – many people would say the Glenn Miller, Frank Sinatra, Jo Stafford, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, Coltrane, The Doors, Glen Campbell, Johnnie Cash, Janis Joplin, Madonna – that ALL of these people (and many, MANY other people), all made great contributions to music.

  • M2N2K says:

    What do you mean “Salonen will clear that hurdle next June”? He actually has been in his seventh decade since last month already!

  • Ilkka Oramo says:

    The going grey of Finland’s Golden Generation swerved the discussion into an unexpected direction.

  • Will Duffay says:

    I’ve been trying to listen to some Magnus Lindberg orchestral music recently. Really remarkably tough stuff. Unpleasant even. Unlistenable, perhaps. I had to give up. But hey, happy birthday fella.

    • Hilary says:

      But his stuff falls fairly easily on the ears. Perhaps too much so…rather genteel/corporate of late.