The First World War raises problems


No sooner had the orchestra war been resolved than the First World War broke out, and times were difficult for the City Orchestra. The Germans who had played in it from its inception were called back to Germany. The number of players and their salaries had to be reduced and the audience figures fell.

Municipalisation had not improved the players’ social status, because the terms of employment were the same as before. Orchestral musicians had not really begun to get organised in Finland – not until 1917 was the Finnish Musicians’ Union founded, thanks in fact to the active efforts of the City Orchestra’s own viola player Johan Leopold “Lepo” Laurila.

The First World War and its side effects greatly lowered the orchestra’s artistic standard. There were not yet enough Finnish players to meet its needs, even though the orchestra school had been operating for decades. Kajanus tried to recruit players from neutral countries such as Denmark and the Netherlands. Nor was the artistic standard helped by the fact that Kajanus and Schnéevoigt now shared the orchestra’s concerts and their mutual relations were extremely inflamed. In 1914–1916 the two gentlemen continued running each other down with the dutiful assistance of the press. The situation was further aggravated by the persistent enmity between the pro-Finnish and the pro-Swedish factions.

Not until Schnéevoigt was appointed Artistic Director of the Stockholm Orchestra and Kajanus was able to direct the City Orchestra on his own did the situation improve. Finland’s Declaration of Independence in 1917 and the ensuing Civil War of 1918 also caused the orchestra major problems. Among other things it ceased operating entirely between 4.2.1918 and 17.4.1918 to boycott the Red administration.

Source: Einari Marvia & Matti Vainio – Helsingin kaupunginorkesteri 1882–1982