Toivo Kuula

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Kuula (c. 1910s) KuulaT.jpg
Kuula (c.1910s)
Toivo Kuula signature.svg

Toivo Timoteus Kuula (7 July 1883 – 18 May 1918) was a Finnish composer and conductor of the late-Romantic and early-modern periods, who emerged in the wake of Jean Sibelius, under whom he studied privately from 1906 to 1908. The core of Kuula's oeuvre are his many works for voice and orchestra, in particular the Stabat mater (1914–18; completed by Madetoja), The Sea-Bathing Maidens (1910), Son of a Slave (1910), and The Maiden and the Boyar's Son (1912). In addition he also composed two Ostrobothnian Suites for orchestra and left an unfinished symphony at the time of his murder in 1918 in a drunken quarrel. [1] [2]


Life and career

He was born in the Vehkakoski village of the Alavus town and registered as a native in the city of Vaasa (then Nikolainkaupunki), when Finland still was a Grand Duchy under Russian rule. He is known as a colorful and passionate portrayer of Finnish nature and people.

Kuula became Jean Sibelius's first composition student. He is best remembered for his large output of melodic choir and vocal works. His instrumental works include two Ostrobothnian Suites for orchestra, a violin sonata, a piano trio, and an unfinished Symphony. [1] Kuula's major choral work is often considered the cantata Stabat Mater, which was completed in spring 1915 (original version, later lost) but revised, beginning 1917 and unfinished at the time of his death. He also wrote a few dozen highly artistic piano works, and 24 songs, many of them first performed by his wife, the singer Alma Kuula. [3]

Kuula has been considered an even more talented composer than his teacher Sibelius. [2]

A Swedish critic once said that Kuula's music reaches parts of the human spirit where one is forced to deep examination of one's self.[ citation needed ]

Kuula was known to be a fierce Fennoman. He died in the provincial hospital in Viipuri in 1918 after being mortally wounded 18 days earlier on Walpurgis Night by a bullet fired by a Jäger. The bullet was fired as a result of a quarrel that happened at the Hotel Seurahuone in conjunction with the first victory celebration of the White victory in the Civil War of Finland. Ironically, "Kuula" means "bullet" in Finnish. Kuula is buried in Hietaniemi cemetery, Helsinki.

Toivo Kuula married Alma Silventoinen in 1914; the couple had one daughter, Sinikka, who later became a professional pianist. [4]


A simplified works list (by Joel Valkila) on the basis of Tero Tommila's Catalogue of Works: [5]

+ Six Posthumous Piano Pieces (Two unfinished) + Six Posthumous Orchestral Pieces (Two unfinished) + Twenty-Two Posthumous Chamber Pieces (Five unfinished) + Fourteen Songs (Three unfinished) + One Posthumous Cantata

Selected recordings

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  1. 1 2 Salmenhaara, Erkki. 'Kuula, Toivo (Timoteus)' in Grove Music Online (2001)
  2. 1 2 "Säveltäjä Toivo Kuula murhattiin yli sata vuotta sitten, mutta tekijää ei koskaan saatu tilille – Nyt murhamysteeri on ehkä ratkennut" [Composer Toivo Kuulas was murdered over a hundred years ago, but the perpetrator was never caught - Now the murder mystery may have been resolved] (in Finnish). Yle. 25 October 2022. Retrieved 25 October 2022.
  3. Biography, Grand Piano Records
  4. "Alma Kuula: Tuijotin tulehen kauan" (in Finnish). Yle. Retrieved 4 September 2021.
  5. T. Elmgren-Heinonen: Toivo Kuula: elämäkerta (Porvoo, 1938/R) [with list of works]