Sunday, October 7, 2012

Finnish Accordion

I had long rested an envious eye on the Finnish accordion Osakeyhtio Harmonikka, model Kouvo Suomi, when Jim Eisenschenk (MN) made its acquisition possible. It now stands in our Finland display alongside artifacts, various music books, recordings of Viola Turpeinen, Karl Jularbo, Veikko Ahvenainen, and historic recordings remastered by Toivo Tamminen, an occasional visitor to the museum.

In the 1930s, six accordion makers are known to have been active in Finland. Among them during the years 1932-1995, Osakeyhtio Harmonikka was located near the city of Kouvola, Finland. It was organized by Aarne Koski (accordion builder since 1915), his brother Väinö Koski and wood craftsman Taavi Kaplas as a subsidiary of Harmonikka Oy (Accordion, Inc.). In 1986, both companies joined Lasse Pihlajamaa Oy, under management of Erkki Järvenpää.

The factory’s most popular model, Kouvola Casotto, renowned throughout Scandinavian countries, ironically led to the company’s closing in 1995. It is said that the Kouvola accordions were so well made that minimal demand for new instruments weakened the company’s viability.  In the last year of operation, the factory sold only 50 instruments for ca. 40,000 Finn-Marks each (then ca. $7,000).

When it closed (under director Jouko Koski), its six skilled workers had been employed there for decades. It was the last of its kind in northern Scandinavian lands. Today there are no makers, but warehoused machinery at Seinäjoki awaits revival of demand for accordions made in Finland.

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