In the 1930s, Finland’s hub of modernism was the eastern town Viipuri, also known as Vyborg. It had cutting-edge architecture and heard contemporary music that would never get played in Helsinki.
Its conductor and conservatoire chief was Boris Wolfson, born Boris Osipovich Kaufman on April 3, 1893, in Vladikavkaz. He sometimes called himself Sirob, his first name backwards. On emigrating to the US he came Sirpo, founder of the Portland Chamber Orchestra. He died in 1967.
Many of Wolfson’s pupils and players in Viipuri were also Jewish, among them Naum Levin, future concertmaster of the Helsinki Philharmonic. Viipuri was surrendered to the Russians in 1945 and its musical history is only now being exhumed.
Here’s Sirob with his friend Jean Sibelius, and lots of young musicians, many of the Jews who perished in the coming wars.
Read more on Boris, here.