Tauno Pylkkänen (22.3.1918 – 13.3.1980) studied composition at the Helsinki Conservatory under Leevi Madetoja and Selim Palmgren. He acted also as the Artistic Director of the Finnish National Opera in the 1960s, as a music critic and teacher at the Sibelius Academy.
Pylkkänen is known especially for his stage music, and he was called “Puccini of the North”. According to his own words opera was his true fate. His National Romantic style flourished in the dramatic operas where his musical instinct was said to be at its best. The breakthrough work was Mare ja hänen poikansa (Mare and His Son, 1943) premiered in 1945 in Helsinki – an intense, powerful opera based on the novel by Aino Kallas, a renowned Finnish author who combined folklore and mysticism in her novels. Pylkkänen was especially drawn to her texts which provided inspiration and material to his operas such as the internationally successful Sudenmorsian (Wolf Bride, 1950) which received the third prize at the Prix Italia festival in 1950, and Bathseba Saaremaalla (Bathsheba of Saarenmaa) – a work written when Pylkkänen was only 22 years old.
Tauno Pylkkänen composed altogether ten operas. The first one was Jaakko Ilkka (1937). Simo Hurtta written in 1948 received even more acclaim than the breakthrough work Mare and His Son. Tuntematon sotilas (The Unknown Soldier) premiered in 1967 was also a success with 30 performances. However, it was his last opera and a swan song to his composing career which ended too early in tragic vein.
Pylkkänen composed also orchestral works, e.g. symphonic poems, a ballet (Kaarina Maununtytär) as well as chamber music, a cantata (Räikkö Räähkä, 1941), film music and vocal pieces such as the popular Der Schwan des Todes (Kuoleman joutsen) Op. 21 for voice and piano.