Helvi Leiviskä: Symphony No.3


Helvi Leiviskä studied at the Sibelius Academy during her younger years, and then continued her musical studies in Vienna, before returning back to her homeland. As well as being a composer, Leiviskä was also a librarian and music teacher – both at the Sibelius Academy. Leiviskä composed three symphonies, a number of orchestral works, a violin sonata and a piano concerto. Her Third Symphony was composed in 1971 and showcases some of Leiviskä’s more mature writing in her later years. 


The Music

Set into three movements and lasting around half an hour in duration, the Third Symphony explores neoclassicism and Romanticism throughout the movements. Leiviskä’s unique voicing throughout makes it a completely unique symphony.


Movement I – Allegro Scherzando

The intriguing movement opens with a modern twist in a scherzo style. The music bounces between muted brass, swirling strings and peppy woodwind to create distinctive voices within the orchestra. As the movement moves on, the neoclassicism style begins to come through, and Leiviskä’s rich textures become more of a showpiece within the music. The constant state of moving is quite apparent during the movement too, with the woodwind in particular moving the music along quickly. 

Leiviskä writes some standout parts for the trumpet and horn, who both have very daring parts during sections of this movement.  The first movement is not what you would expect at all from an opening scherzo movement, which is perhaps what gives it the charm and style that it oozes throughout. 


Movement II – Fuga pastoralis

The relaxed second movement is in a pastoral style. Only five minutes in duration, Leiviskä focuses on the strings and upper woodwind for this movement. Rich textures mix with each other to create broad and long sweeping melodies across the orchestra. As the title suggests, this movement is also one big fugue. Lots of different voices intertwine, but soon become one by the end of the movement. The second movement concludes after an intricate woodwind fugue that slowly unwinds to a final unison note.


Movement III – Allegro

The finale is the longest movement and begins with a bold lower string motif. The last two movements have built up everything that is explored and developed further in the finale. In a march-like style, the military opening is bold and powerful. Leiviskä uses unison movement to create this effect, with some sections sounding quite like the works of Shostakovich. The ebb and flow of the music creates light and shade within the music which gives it the bite it has in this final movement. Leiviskä’s rich textures are again at the forefront, with a lot of the content of this movement basing itself on previous material. As the music slowly winds down to a flute solo that is accompanied by the violins, the finale concludes very gently and quietly. 


Ⓒ Alex Burns

Happy Reading!

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