History of Music – Music In Scandinavia

Foremost of Scandinavian composers is Edvard Hagerup Grieg (1843-1907), who was born at Bergen, Norway, and received his early musical education from his mother, who was an excellent pianist, and very musical. By the advice of the celebrated violinist, Ole Bull, Grieg was sent in 1858 to Leipsic for further instruction, where he became a pupil of Moscheles, Hauptmann, Reinecke, Richter and Wenzel. In 1863 he pursued further studies under Gade at Copenhagen. In companionship with a talented young composer, Ricard Nordraak, Grieg set himself, as he says, ” against the faded Scandinavianism of Gade and Mendelssohn inter-mingled, and undertook to put into tones the real beauty, strength and inner spirit of the northern folk-life.” He composed in many varieties of work, and in 1879 attained German recognition by playing his own piano concerto at the Gewandhaus in Leipsic. Grieg’s works are full of poetry, easy and natural expression, and are pervaded by northern coloring, so decided as in some cases to approach what in speech is called dialect. Nevertheless, it is indubitable that his music has distinctly enriched the world’s stream of tone-poetry, and introduced a new accent and voice. He has distinguished himself in almost every department, in-songs, choral work, chamber music, symphonies, sonatas far piano and piano and violin, and orchestral suites, of which perhaps his two Peer Gynt ” are the most celebrated. In person Grieg is slight, fair-haired, with lovely deep blue eyes and a charming manner. He is subject to pulmonary weakness, and is compelled to reside much of his time in warmer climates than those of his native land.

An older composer than Grieg is Neils Wilhelm Gade (1817-1890), of Copenhagen, who after a thorough musical education received in his native city, attracted wider attention in 1841 by taking the prize for his concert overture, ” Night Sounds from Ossian,” the judges being Fr. Schneider and Spohr, the violinist. This gave Gade a royal stipendium, with which he immediately betook himself to study at Leipsic, where he came under the personal influence of Mendelssohn, an influence which he never outgrew. At the death of Mendelssohn he was appointed director of the Gewandhaus, but not proving in all respects satisfactory he held the position only a part of one season. After the death of Gläser in 1861, Gade was made royal music director at Copenhagen, a position which he filled many years. He was active as composer in every direction, his published works embracing eight symphonies, five overtures, two concertos for violin and orchestra, three violin sontas, several cantatas for mixed voices, soli and orchestra, and many other works. The ultimate judgment of Gade is a tone-poet is likely to be that while distinctly talented, he never attained imagination of the first order.

Among the younger composers Christian Sinding (1856– ) is to be mentioned. Besides many works for chamber, he has written one symphony, which while not very original gives promise of better productions later.