|Disc No: CDS-1035-2
Those whom the Gods love die young
Saturday, 2lst October 1899 in Locarno, Switzerland. The time is nine in the evening and a doctor is visiting a young Finnish patient, the composer Ernst Mielck. He has come to Switzerland with his parents to alleviate the malignant tuberculosis that is threatening his life. The doctor finds that his patient is doing well. But later that night his condition deteriorates, He dies in his mother's arms at half past two in the morning. With the all too premature death of Ernst Mielck, Finland lost a young composer of genius who might even have challenged the preeminence of Sibelius.
Background and carly years
Who was Ernst Mielck? John Rosas, the author of a book on the composer, explains that he belonged to a large and important family. His talent for music came from both his parents. His father (known as 'the white Mielck') was a businessman by profession but is said to have possessed a fine baritone voice and to have been greatly interested in music. Ernst's uncle (known as 'the black Mielck') was a distinguished horn player. To an even greater extent, however, Mielck inherited his musical aptitude from his mother, who belonged to an eminent Swedish-speaking Finnish family (Fabritius) with wide-ranging cultural interests. Various family members played musical instruments, and one had been a prominent figure in musical life in Turku (Ĺbo). Ernst was bom in Viipuri (Viborg) on 24th October 1877 and it was immediately obvious that he was an unusually fragile baby. In a letter to a friend, his mother described how sickly he was, and how the doctor said on one occasion: 'Don't cry; it's best if the child dies, otherwise he'll become an idiot'. His mother did not give up, however; she devoted all her time to him and (the letter continues): 'from his frail body there grew a human heart, as clear as crystal, with an enthusiasm for all that was true and great - the divine spark had been ignited'.
Studies in Berlin
As a consequence of his illness it was a long time before Mielck began to devote himself seriously to music. When he was ten, he began piano lessons under Albert Tietze, who had been an opera singer and music teacher. In 1891 Mielck was send to Berlin to continue his musical studies. He enrolled at the Sternsches Konservatorium, and his acceptance there was in itself deemed a sign of considerable talent. Among his teachers was Robert Radecke, and many witnesses testify to Mielck's enthusiasm and diligence in his work. He made his début as a pianist at a celebrated concert in Viipuri in 1894. Suddenly be becarne something of a celebrity, not least in Turku. It was at this time that be started to compose, concentrating at this stage on smaller pieces. Shortly afterwards, Mielck followed the advice of his piano teacher Ehrlich and set off to study under no less a figure than Max Bruch. Bruch was a sympathetic and supportive teacher; even though be found Mielck's newiy-composed Piano Concerto somewhat immature, be thought it displayed great promise. He wrote a very positive report and, when Mielck retumed to Finland in 1896, be regarded his studies as complete.
Debut as a composer
Mielck spent rnuch of the following autumn at home, devoting his time to composition. During this period his fame spread to Helsinki, where his Macbeth, overture was performed and was greeted with surprise and delight. He was booked to appear at several concerts in Viipuri in 1896, and during the time remaining after preparations for the concerts be continued to compose: among the pieces be worked on was his Symphony in F minot-. The first Viipuri concert probably ineluded the work which later came to be known as Fantasy on Finnish Folk Melodies. At ene concert Mielck accompanied the soprano Aino Ackté (1 876-1966), one of Finland's foremost opera singers.