George de Godzinsky

Born: July 5th, 1914, Saint Petersburg (Russian empire)
Died: May 23rd, 1994, Espoo (Finland)
Nationality: Finnish

George de Godzinsky was born into a Finnish family of Polish descent living in Saint Petersburg, which was the capital of the soon-to-collapse Russian Empire of Nicholas II, to which Finland, at that time, belonged. His father worked as a tradesman and civil serviceman, but was at the same time a gifted amateur musician. In 1917, the year of two revolutions in the then renamed city of Petrograd, the family fled to Finland, where son George started attending lessons at the Helsinki Conservatory at sixteen. He completed several courses there, most importantly piano, between 1930 and 1937.

During his studies, De Godzinsky worked as a pianist for the Finnish National Opera. In 1935-1936, he was the accompanist of world famous opera singer Feodor Chaliapin in his Far East Tour to China and Japan. In 1939, De Godzinsky took up conducting, becoming musical director of the Kristalli Tanssiorkesteri in Helsinki. Later, he worked as chief-conductor in the Swedish Theatre (Helsinki), the Royal Dramatic Theatre (Stockholm), and finally the Gothenburg City Theatre. Upon his return to Finland, he worked extensively with the orchestra of Finnish National Opera, touring the world and performing in the United States, Norway, Poland, and France. De Godzinsky continued working as a conductor up to a high age, regularly performing with the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra until shortly before his death in 1994.

As a composer, De Godzinsky worked on both classical and popular music. He wrote about fifty light-classical pieces in Viennese style, as well as twelve operettas. He scored the music to no fewer than 64 films, including ‘Tuhottu nuoruus’ (1947) and ‘Kummituskievari’ (1954), as well as working extensively on TV projects, writing tunes for countless programmes, ranging from history documentaries to popular series such as ‘Kippariklubi’. Moreover, he composed and arranged approximately two-hundred light entertainment and pop songs, including ‘Roopen lemmenlaulu’ by Taunu Palo, and ‘On silmäsi tummat kuin etelän yö’ by Ansa Ikonen, as well as children’s repertoire.

In the Eurovision Song Contest, Finland had a tradition of sending the same conductor year in, year out. George de Godzinsky was the regular Finnish musical director from 1961 (when the country made its debut in the competition) until 1965. In both 1962 and 1964, the Finnish entries, sung by Marion Rung and Lasse Mårtenson respectively, came seventh, which were to remain the best scores for the country until 1973. In 1966, De Godzinsky ceded the baton to a young jazz musician called Ossi Runne, who was to go on to conduct the Eurovision orchestra for Finland on more than twenty occasions.

In due course, a more extensive biography of George de Godzinsky will be published on this website


Songs conducted
1961: Valoa ikkunassa
1962: Tipi-tii
1963: Muistojeni laulu
1964: Laiskotellen
1965: Aurinko laskee länteen