Georg Schnéevoigt conducts the City Orchestra


As successor to Kajanus, the Music Committee appointed Georg Schnéevoigt, a man who already had a considerable career behind him, as conductor of the Helsinki City (Philharmonic) Orchestra. He already had considerable experience not only as a conductor of numerous ensembles, but also as a cellist and trumpeter in Kajanus’s orchestra. Applications for the post of conductor were also received from Ossian Fohström, Tauno Hannikainen, Leo Funtek and Simon Pergament-Parmet, who was Kajanus’s favourite as his successor.

The temperamental Schnéevoigt differed considerably from Kajanus in character. He was a hard task master in rehearsal: exacting and strict. He was regarded as a clever conductor – nothing short of virtuosic, in fact. Sometimes his character led to problems with the administrative staff, for example. When not at work, he is described as having been an easy-going fellow and good company, but when wielding a baton, punctilious and imperious.

Schnéevoigt immediately announced on being appointed that he would be increasing the volume of Finnish and contemporary music in the repertoire. True, the latter objective was not so easy to put into practice, and he was obliged to backtrack and revert to more romantic repertoire, because he nevertheless did not wish “to play to empty walls”. In the end, his term as conductor (1932-1940) did not differ very much from that of Kajanus.

Georg Schnéevoigt was an active innovator and had numerous ideas for enriching the musical life of Helsinki. Many of his ideas had to be put on hold because of the poor state of the economy. But one major initiative did get implemented and the first of the monthly concerts proposed by him for schoolchildren was launched.

Another significant achievement was the concert tour to London in 1934. Schnéevoigt had long been complaining that the orchestra had too few players, and he went so far as to propose that the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra combine with the Helsinki Philharmonic – a subject that caused lengthy debate.

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