History : Years 1925 - 1990, The Times of Musiikki-Fazer

Integrated with the music shop, the concert agency – which had a virtual monopoly in its field in Finland – grew stronger. In 1925, it organised 60 concerts in Helsinki and 139 concerts elsewhere in Finland. Some estimates suggest that this was 90% of all concerts organised in Finland that year. But the peak of the inter-war period came in 1928, when according to documents the concert agency organised a staggering 379 concerts!

The status of the concert agency as a major music institution in Helsinki and the influence concomitant with that status were probably at their highest during the directorship of Ernst Pingoud, who was also manager of the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra until 1933. Then times turned difficult, with the recession and the war years, and in the agency directors came and went. Pingoud was succeeded for a short time by Elias Hydén, a military man. His replacement was Konrad Fazer, after whose death Pingoud returned for a brief period to head the agency.

Fjodor Shaljapin

The status of the concert agency as a major music institution in Helsinki and the influence concomitant with that status were probably at their highest during the directorship of Ernst Pingoud, who was also manager of the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra until 1933. Then times turned difficult, with the recession and the war years, and in the agency directors came and went. Pingoud was succeeded for a short time by Elias Hydén, a military man. His replacement was Konrad Fazer, after whose death Pingoud returned for a brief period to head the agency.

From 1939 up to the 1960s, the concert agency was led by the legendary Elsa Salminen, who had been working at the agency since 1929, organising concerts in Finland (having previously worked under Edvard Fazer at the Finnish Opera). During Elsa Salminen’s long term of office, the agency became busier and acquired an ever larger circle of clients. There were concerts and other events on almost every night of the year, weekends not excluded. The list of international celebrities who visited Finland during this time is formidable, including Marian Anderson, Bronislaw Huberman, Artur Rubinstein, the Berlin Philharmonic (whose first visit to Finland was in 1925), the Wiener Sängerknaben and, on the lighter side, Carmen Miranda and Louis Armstrong and his orchestra. The repertoire of the concert agency also included the Holiday on Ice show for many years, guest appearances by foreign dance companies, themed series of film screenings, poetry tours, and even the management of the finances of the summer tours of the Finnish National Opera. Among the more unusual imports were a stuffed whale and a real live American Indian! The concert agency was also kept busy by summer festivals. Since TV was not yet the major pastime it has since become, people had plenty of time in the evenings for instance to go to concerts.  

It was during Elsa Salminen’s directorship, in 1946, that the concert agency again separated from the music shop and became Oy Konserttitoimisto Fazer. However, close relations with Musiikki-Fazer were kept up, and later the concert agency was merged back into the larger musical enterprise. The managing director of Musiikki-Fazer from 1941 was Roger Lindberg – himself a member of the Fazer family – who regarded the concert agency as a crown jewel and took good care of the artists it represented. He considered it vital to maintain extensive and close relations with foreign bodies. He contributed to the founding of the Association Européenne des Agents Artistiques / European Association of Artist Managers (AEAA) in Paris in 1947 and was actively involved in the organisation for decades. 

Early in 1963, Elsa Salminen fell ill and had to leave her job with the agency after 33 years. The agency was managed by Maire Pulkkinen for a while, until Viggo Groundstroem was invited to take over as director. The financial side of affairs at the agency was managed by Gunvor Kuusijärvi in addition to Maire Pulkkinen. Both stayed with the company for a considerable time: Pulkkinen for more than 20 years, and Kuusijärvi for almost 50.

In the 1980s, the concert agency was headed for some years by Kari Vase, and from 1988 to 2001 the managing director was Tuula Sarotie. Financial manager Märta Gartz-Kuokkanen worked at the concert agency from 1984 to 2010. During Groundstroem’s directorship, a steady stream of international artists came to Finland: Svyatoslav Richter, Mstislav Rostropovich, Isaac Stern and David Oistrakh, and somewhat later (continuing to this day) Peter Schreier, Grigori Sokolov, Vladimir Ashkenazy and Murray Perahia. The list could go on. Many people who ended up working at the concert agency enjoyed their job so much that they made a career of it, and many of our artists have also kept coming back for decades.

Throughout its history, the Fazer Concert Agency has been a gateway between West and East. In the early 20th century, many performers from western Europe made a stop in Helsinki on their way to Russia, and numerous Russian performers found their way to western Europe and America, even during the Soviet era. Fazer has also acquired performers through prominent Finnish competitions, such as the International Sibelius Violin Competition, which was first held in 1965. Fazer has represented many of the finalists in this competition over the years, beginning with the first winner, the late Oleg Kagan, and including Liana Isakadze, Pavel Kogan, Ilya Grubert, Viktoria Mullova, Sergei Stadler, Leonidas Kavakos, Pekka Kuusisto, Lisa Batiashvili, Alina Pogostkina and Nancy Zhou. Many of them are now celebrated world-class artists – and also continue to return to Finland to perform.

 

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