Edvard Alexander Fazer (1861–1943) was a concert pianist, an opera and ballet director, and also Finland’s first impresario. He made a revolutionary contribution to Finland’s fledgling musical life, planting a tree whose many branches continue to bear fruit to this day.
Sources indicate that Edvard Fazer set himself up as an impresario as early as in the 1890s, organising the occasional recital for performers of his acquaintance. He came from a family of merchants, and while pursuing a career as a concert pianist he had developed the idea of setting up a concert and artist management agency of international calibre in Helsinki to book engagements for Finnish performers and to arrange for top international names to come to Finland. Thanks to his extensive study and concert trips, Fazer had made valuable contacts in Russia, central Europe and the UK, and even as far afield as in the Far East and America. More to the point, he had seen how impresarios worked as agents and organisers out in the ‘wide world’.
Edvard Fazer set up his concert agency in 1903, initially registered under the name Edvard Fazers Pianouthyrnings och Konsertbyrå (Edvard Fazer’s piano rental and concert agency). As the name indicated, he not only organised performances but also rented out instruments needed for those performances. For promotional purposes, however, he called his company Konsertbyrån Edvard Fazer (Edvard Fazer concert agency). This became the company’s moniker and a brand with worldwide recognition.
Contemporary accounts indicate that the agency was run at a vigorous pace, and the few surviving documents testify to this too: the agency might have several concerts scheduled in any one week, and the Fazer ‘stable’ included such names as Jean Sibelius, Robert Kajanus, Aino Ackté, Ida Ekman and Armas Järnefelt. The list of foreign superstars handled by the agency is dazzling, including such names as Elvira de Hidalgo, Fyodor Shalyapin, Misha Elman, Fritz Kreisler, Pablo Casals, Serge Rachmaninoff and Eugene Isaye. The Fazer concert agency also organised dance performances and matinees, and there was something for children too: documents exist pointing to dance performances by Maggie Gripenberg for children and storytelling evenings by Jalmari Finne. In 1906, the Helsinki public was treated to a symphony concert where the orchestra of the Helsinki Philharmonic Society (today’s Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra) was conducted by none other than Gustav Mahler. Not only performers but entire orchestras trusted Edvard Fazer’s professional expertise: he was the chairman of the orchestra of the Helsinki Philharmonic Society for years, and in 1911 he made a motion to set up a municipally funded orchestra. Although it took years for this institution to materialise, a music board was set up by the City of Helsinki as early as in 1912, Fazer being appointed a deputy member.
Edvard Fazer properly cut his teeth as an impresario in 1908, when he put together a group of members of the Russian Imperial Ballet for an extensive European tour. It was thus Edvard Fazer who must be credited with introducing Russian ballet to western Europe and not Sergei Diaghilev, to whom Fazer signed over the management of the distinguished company one year later.
Over the years, with added contacts and more experience, Edvard Fazer became an internationally recognised and acknowledged impresario. He was regarded as a man of reliability and integrity who was helpful, lovable and modest. He did not disdain or overlook even the most minor task related to the wellbeing of the artists he represented or the arrangements of the concerts he organised.
Some documents suggest that Edvard Fazer officially left the directorship of his concert agency as early as in 1909 due to increasing calls on his time by other activities on the Finnish musical scene, but for all practical purposes he continued to run the business probably well into the 1920s, certainly through the Great War. From 1909 to 1924, the director of the agency was Helge Mörck, who was briefly succeeded by his widow Maj Mörck. In 1924, the agency was renamed Konsertdirektion Fazer Konserttitoimisto, a bilingual version of the name. Almost immediately thereafter, the agency plunged into financial difficulties, and in 1925 it was acquired by the Fazer Music Shop and renamed Fazerin Musiikkikaupan Konserttitoimisto (Fazer music shop concert agency).