Erkki Melartin (1875-1937) was one of the most prolific Finnish composers of all times, with an oeuvre running to more than thousand items. In addition to composing, he was principal of the Helsinki Music Institute and Conservatory (predecessor of the Sibelius Academy) for a quarter of a century, and travelled widely in Central and Southern Europe and even as far away as North Africa, Egypt and India.
A learned musician, Melartin was in full command of his stock in trade and the art and technique of composition. He also possessed an unquenchable thirst for new musical trends, never marking time and constantly working on his idiom to produce a synthesis of the lexicon of the Late Romantic and the invention of Impressionism and Expressionism.
His extensive output for orchestra includes six symphonies, symphonic poems, a violin concerto, two ballets and music for a dozen or so plays, among them music for the play The Sleeping Beauty. On top of these he wrote chamber music for various combinations of instruments as well as hundreds of piano pieces and songs. Melartin’s songs are of rare stylistic diversity, ranging from lyrical, nature-inspired mood pictures to impressionistic and at times even highly expressionistic pieces. His choice of texts reflects his broad education, for he was equally at home in both Finnish and foreign poetry.
Melartin’s opera Aino (1909), "a Kalevalaic mystery", was one of the first great Finnish operas to find a place in the permanent repertoire. In musical idiom the opera is Late Romantic, but it also has Impressionistic overtones, and Melartin also made flexible use of Wagnerian leitmotiv technique.