Author: Hannu Marttila

Blowing in the wind

26 November 2010 | Reviews

Clarinettist who travelled: Bernhard Crusell

Bernhard Crusell: Keski-Euroopan matkapäiväkirjat 1803–1822
[Bernhard Crusell: Travel Diaries from Central Europe, 1803–1822]
Suom. ja toim. [Translated into Finnish and edited by] Janne Koskinen
Helsinki: Suomalaisen kirjallisuuden seura [Finnish Literature Society], 271 p., ill.
ISBN 978-952-222-090-5
€28, hardback

Born the son of a poor bookbinder on the west coast of Finland, Bernhard Crusell (1775–1838) had talents as a clarinettist and composer that brought him considerable fame, both in his native country and further afield. Hannu Marttila reads the diaries he wrote on his travels in Europe, where his meetings with the great and the good chart the emergence of the new Romantic sensibility

‘Felix is a most beautiful child, and he is also said to be very unassuming. In his compositions one immediately recognises the signs of genius and good training. He continues to study under Zelter, and, thanks to an anticipated large inheritance, he, too, may become an independent composer. People here think he may even become another Mozart.’ More…

Slowly does it

5 November 2009 | Reviews

Photo: Sami Repo

Straight from the oven: cabbage rolls. – Photo: Sami Repo

[Grandma’s house]
(food: Hans Välimäki, photographs: Sami Repo, text: Mikko Takala, graphic design: Timo Numminen)
Helsinki: Otava, 2009. 224 p., ill.
ISBN 978-951-1-23930-7
€ 40

How paradoxical: in the past couple of decades, numerous internationally famous gourmet restaurants have sprung up in Finland, and at the same time it’s harder than ever to find ordinary, well-prepared ingredients for cooking at home.

It’s hard to get used to the fact that foods like beef and lamb kidneys, sweetbread, and cheaper cuts for use in stews and soups have made way for cheap Brazilian steaks on special offer, even at the largest stores’ meat counters. There’s no point in looking for whole chickens (and certainly not organic poultry), let alone whole, locally caught fish. The last time I asked at the fish counter of my local market if they might have any salmon heads and bones for chowder, the seller looked for a moment like she might summon security. The consumer wasn’t consulted when ‘taste’ and ‘variety’ were replaced by ‘ease’ and ‘speed’. More…

The last glass of champagne

Issue 2/2005 | Archives online, Authors, Reviews

Anton Chekhov, at Yalta on the Black Sea to treat his tuberculosis, travels to Moscow in spring to meet his wife Olga, who is working as an actress in Stanislavsky’s Moscow Art Theatre. They have long had to maintain their relationship by letter. Now the doctors believe the patient must be sent to Germany for treatment at a spa. He himself does not want to acknowledge his condition, although as a doctor he cannot be unaware of the signs of approaching death. Olga accompanies him with mixed feelings, for she does not wish to interrupt her career.

Raine Mäkinen (born 1938) has been a rather unfamiliar name in literary circles. His novel Kuuma syksy (‘Hot autumn’) was selected as the best first Finnish-language novel of the year 1974, and in his long, rather than productive, career as a writer he published a few more novels before retiring from his position as chemist and industrial hygienist. Voin ja paljon paremmin (‘I already feel much better’, Loki, 2004), a novel about Anton Chekhov and Olga Knipper, is the work of a mature writer: biographical facts, understanding of human nature and imagination are well balanced. Mäkinen’s novel seems to have grown out of a virtually lifelong admiration and love for Chekhov. He does not try to write about Chekhov using Chekhov’s own style, of course – but his text breathes a simplicity, naturalness and purity impossible to achieve without hard work and humility. He does not try for pretty words, but he writes beautiful text. More…