Bernhard Crusell: The Little Slave Girl Overture
Bernhard Henrik Crusell (1775-1838)
Overture to The Little Slave Girl (Pieni orjatar)
Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra
Osmo Vänskä, conductor
Bernhard Henrik Crusell (1775 – 1838) was a Swedish-Finnish clarinetist, composer and translator, "the most significant and internationally best-known Finnish-born classical composer and indeed, — the outstanding Finnish composer before Sibelius". Crusell was born in Uusikaupunki (Swedish: Nystad), Finland, into a poor family of bookbinders. His grandfather, Bernhard Kruselius had learned the trade of bookbinding in Turku and Stockholm, then settled in Pori where he fathered nine children, including Crusell's father Jakob, who also became a bookbinder. In 1765, after Jakob completed his apprenticeship, he moved to Uusikaupunki and married Helena Ylander, but she died about one year later. In 1769 he married Margaretha Messman. The couple had four children, but Bernhard was the only one who lived to become an adult. Later in life Crusell described this period of his life, writing in the third person: In his little town of birth there was only one person who had an active interest in music: a shop assistant who could be heard in the evenings playing the flute for his own amusement. One night, the four-year-old Berndt was sitting in the street, leaning against a wall, on top of the world with admiration for the sweet melodies. His parents, who had been looking for their son for a long time, scolded him severely, but this could not stop the boy from returning to his favourite spot the next evening. This time he got a beating for his disobedience, but as it was to no avail, they left him to his "craze", confident that he would come back home as soon as the flute went silent... When Crusell was eight, the family moved to Perttula, the rural village of Nurmijärvi about 23 miles north of Helsinki. His innate interest in music continued, and he learned to play a friend's clarinet by ear. He soon began to receive training from a member of the Nyland regimental band. In 1788, when he was thirteen, another family friend, aware of the young man's natural ability, took him to see Major O. Wallenstjerna at Sveaborg (Finnish: Viapori). Sveaborg was a Swedish fortress built on six islands just off the coast of Helsinki. The educated officers of the fort had significant influence on the culture and politics of the city. Wallenstjerna, impressed with Crusell's playing, recruited him as a volunteer member of the Sveaborg military band and gave him a place to live with his own family. Crusell received an education at Sveaborg and excelled in music and languages. In 1791 Wallenstjerna transferred to Stockholm and Crusell went with him. Although Crusell spent most of the rest of his life in Sweden, he always considered himself a Finn. In his final years in a letter to Runeberg he called himself a "finsk landsman" (a Finn). He also maintained his travel diaries in Finnish.
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