Composers

Eyvind Alnæs

Eyvind Alnæs, the arranger of “Anne Knutsdatter,” was born in Fredrikstad, Norway in 1872. He first studied music at the Music Conservatory in Oslo, and then studied in Leipzig. For several years, he was the organist at Vår Frelsers (Our Savior's) church in Oslo. He also conducted a men's chorus in Oslo. Alnæs composed music for organ, piano, and voice.

Eyvind Alnæs followed in the footsteps of Halfdan Kjerulf, Edvard Grieg, and Agathe Backer Grøndahl in writing Romanser, that is, Norwegian art songs. This type of song is for voice and piano, and both are equally important in setting the mood and conveying the story of the song. He wrote approximately 185 songs, and was the last of the great Norwegian composers of this art form. His music has beautiful melodies and rich harmonies. He died in 1932.

 

Agathe Backer Grøndahl

Agathe Backer Grøndahl, composer of “Efter en Sommerfugl” and “Mot Kveld,” is thought by many to be Norway's foremost female composer. A contemporary and close friend of Edvard Grieg, she was the first Norwegian woman composer to ever get a stipend from the Norwegian government.

Born in 1847, Agathe Backer Grøndahl was an accomplished pianist, as well as a composer. She started her studies in Norway with Otto Winther-Hjelm, Halfdan Kjerulf, and L.M. Lindeman, but soon left to study in Berlin, and then with Liszt in Weimar and with von Bülow in Florence. She made her concert debut as a pianist when she was only seventeen. She then toured, playing concerts throughout Europe. She is considered to be one of the most talented classical pianists that Norway has ever produced.

After her marriage, she settled in Oslo and raised a family. She became a very influential teacher, and continued to compose and perform in Norway. She produced numerous works for piano and for voice. Towards the end of her life, she became almost totally deaf, and she had to give up performing. Agathe Backer Grøndahl died in Oslo in 1907.

 

 

Ole Bull

Ole Bull, composer of “Sæterjentens Søndag,” was primarily known as one of the greatest violin virtuosos of his time, playing for both the King of England, and the Russian Czar. He was born in Bergen, Norway in 1810, the eldest of ten children. He was a child prodigy, largely self-taught on the violin. At the age of eight, he assumed the position of first violin in the Bergen Orchestra. When King Frederik VII of Denmark asked him who had taught him to play the violin, he is reputed to have replied, "The mountains of Norway." For a time, he attended the University of Oslo where he studied law and theology, but he abandoned his studies to devote himself to the violin.

In 1831, he went to Paris where he met Chopin, Rossini, the pianist, Hiller, and the violin virtuoso, Paganini, whom Ole Bull greatly admired. Chopin sponsored a concert by Ole Bull in Paris, thus launching Bull's international career. He achieved great success in Bologna in 1834 when he performed his own "Violin Concerto in A Major." He performed throughout Europe, gaining acclaim for his brilliant improvisations and the rich tone of his playing. He modified his violin, using the Norwegian Hardanger Fiddle as a model. The almost flat bridge on this modified violin enabled him to play four note chords. In 1840, Liszt accompanied Ole Bull in a perfomance of Beethoven's "Kreutzer Sonata" in London. Ole Bull first performed in America in 1843. He toured the United States, Canada, and Cuba.

Ole Bull always promoted the folk music and culture of Norway. It was Ole Bull who “discovered” Edvard Grieg. Bull heard the boy play when he was a guest in the Griegs' home. He told Edvard's parents that the boy had talent, and needed to go abroad to study. It was Ole Bull who established the first Norwegian National Theater in Bergen, and employed both Henrik Ibsen and Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson. It is said that Ibsen's character of Peer Gynt is based partly on the remarkable life of Ole Bull. In the 1860's he tried to get a Norwegian Academy of Folk Music established, but this effort was not successful. He spent the last ten years of his life living in the United States, where he had founded a utopian community, Oleana, in Pennsylvania. He returned to his summer home on Lysøy, near Bergen, each year. It was there that he died in 1880. This home is maintained as Museet Lysoen, and is a tribute the incredible life of Ole Bull.

 

Chris Christensen

Chris Christensen is the composer of “Nidelven.” I have not been able to find any information about him. If anyone out there knows anything about him, please let me know.

 

Walter Eriksson

Walter Algot Eriksson, arranger of "Nidelven" on this CD, was instrumental in keeping traditional Scandinavian music alive in the United States. Widely regarded as one of the foremost accordionists in the world, he was born in Brooklyn. His mother was from the ethnically Swedish west coast of Finland, and his father was from Åland. He grew up in "Finntown" in Brooklyn and attended the High School of Music and Art in Manhattan. During WWII, he was stationed in Germany where he led the 425th Army Service Force Band.

After the war, he returned to Brooklyn where he composed, arranged, and performed for virtually every Scandinavian group in the tri-state area. He made numerous recordings, and for many years, he hosted the popular "Scandinavian Echoes" radio program broadcast from Manhattan. Walter Eriksson founded the Scandinavian Accordion Club of New York, which is still performing today. Walter performed widely in Scandinavia, and in 1992, he was awarded the "Public's Favorite" award at the world's largest accordion festival at "Bälgspel vid Landvägskanten" in Ransäter, Sweden. He was knighted by the Kings of Norway and Sweden, and honored by the Finnish government for his untiring work of spreading Scandinavian culture. He died in Brooklyn in 1993.

His daughter, Jeanne Eriksson Widman, continues her father's legacy. She founded ScanJam, a Scandinavian music festival,which is held in honor of Walter Eriksson each year in Budd Lake, New Jersey.

 

Edvard Grieg

Edvard Grieg is Norway's most famous composer. He was born in Bergen, Norway in 1843. He started his music studies with his mother, and was composing music by the time he was 13. After Ole Bull “discovered” him, he was sent abroad to study. At the age of 15, he left for several years of study at the Leipzig Conservatory, where he came to love the music of Schumann. While there, he suffered from a serious lung infection and almost died. He lost the use of one lung and remained in delicate health for the rest of his life.

In 1863, he traveled to Copenhagen, where he met Rikard Nordraak. Nordraak was a young Norwegian composer (and the composer of the Norwegian National Anthem) who was very interested in using Norwegian folk music in his compositions. Though Nordraak died young (age 23), he made a deep impression on Edvard Grieg. Edvard Grieg became one of the foremost composers of Nationalistic music of the Romantic Era. He was also an accomplished pianist, making his debut as a concert pianist in Karlshamn, Sweden in 1861.

From1866 to 1874, Grieg lived in Christiania (Oslo) and worked as a music teacher and conductor. While in Christiania, he married his cousin, Nina. She was a singer, and their relationship was often stormy, but Grieg said of Nina, "She is the only true interpreter of my songs." It is said that when Tchaikovsky heard Nina sing her husband's song, "Våren," (Spring) the great Russian composer was reduced to tears.

In 1868, Edvard Grieg wrote his famous "Piano Concerto in A Minor" which was strongly influenced by Norwegian folk music. Having heard Grieg's music, Franz Liszt urged the Norwegian Ministry of Education to give Grieg a travel grant. These two musicians met in Rome in 1870. Liszt sight read Grieg's score for the "Piano Concerto in A Minor," and urged Grieg to keep to his own individual path of music composition. Grieg did so. In the 1870's he became acquainted with L.M. Lindeman's collection of Norwegian folk music. It inspired him to arrange his "Norwegian Folksongs and Dances, Op. 17."

Both Edvard Grieg and Henrik Ibsen were made Knights of St. Olav in 1873. Grieg moved to Bergen the following year, and he composed the incidental music for Ibsen's "Peer Gynt." He later made two orchestral suites from this music. They have become his most famous compositions. He also worked closely with the poet and playwright Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson. Grieg was a strong supporter of the Nationalist Movement in Norway, and an advocate of the language, Landsmaal. He set numerous poems written in Landsmaal by A. O. Vinje and Arne Garborg to music. These are his songs which most strongly show the influence of Norwegian folk music. He left a great legacy of orchestral, piano, and vocal music. Six of these musical gems are on “Norges Melodier.” Grieg retired to his home, “Troldhaugen,” outside of Bergen. He died there in 1907.

 

Halfdan Kjerulf

Halfdan Kjerulf, was born in Oslo in 1815. As a child, he studied piano and elementary music theory. His father was a government official, and Halfdan planned on becoming a civil servant as well. He began to study law at Christiania University, but a serious illness interrupted his studies. In 1840, he took a vacation in Paris. There, he heard the music of the Viennese Classicists, the early Romantic composers, and Berlioz. It changed his life.

The next year was extrememly difficult. His sister, father, and brother all died, and Halfdan had to assume the responsibility of providing for his family. He took a job as the foreign editor of Den Constitutionelle, an important newspaper in Christiania. He also studied music on his own, and he started to compose. In 1841 his first composition, a group of six songs, was published. He became the conductor of the Norwegian Students' Male Chorus. In 1845, he left his job at the newspaper, and worked full-time as a music teacher.

At the end of the 1840's he started to study music composition with Carl Arnold. Arnold helped him get a travel stipend to study music abroad. Kjerulf first went to Copenhagen to study with Niels W. Gade. In 1850, he entered the Leipzig Conservatory. He returned to Norway to teach, compose, and give concerts. He collaborated with Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson, and one of his students in Christiania was the noted Norwegian composer, Agathe Backer Grøndahl. Kjerulf was the first composer to use the folk music of Norway in his compositions. The beautiful melody of “Synnøves Sang” is typical of his music, and he is best known for his songs. He also left a legacy of choral and piano music. He strongly influenced Rikard Nordraak and Edvard Grieg. He died in 1868.

 

 

Ludvig Mathias Lindeman

L.M. Lindeman was born in Trondheim, Norway in 1812. His father, an organist and concert pianist, was Lindeman's first music teacher. Ludvig was a child prodigy who performed at an early age. When he was 27, he became organist of Our Savior's Lutheran Church in Oslo. He remained in that position until his death in 1887, and he is buried there.

Lindeman was one of the first significant Norwegian composers. Many of his hymns, such as "Built on a Rock the Church Doth Stand," are still sung in churches around the world. He was one of the first collectors of Norwegian folk music. It was Lindeman's folk music collection that inspired Edvard Grieg to arrange his "Norwegian Folksongs and Dances Op. 17." Agathe Backer Grøndahl studied with L.M. Lindeman, as did Alfred Paulsen. L.M. Lindeman was the founder of the Music and Organist's School in Oslo which is now the Music Conservatory. Although none of Lindeman's music is on the CD, he was so important in the development of Norwegian music, and had so much influence on the composers who are represented on the CD, that I felt he should be included on this website.

 

Rikard Nordraak

Rikard Nordraak was born in Christiania (Oslo) in 1842. He showed musical talent as a child, but his parents wanted him to have a career in business. At the age of fifteen, he was sent to business school in Copenhagen, Denmark. At first, he combined his business studies with the study of music, but, in 1859, he dropped out of business school to devote himself to music. He went to Berlin for advanced training. Upon returning to Norway, he continued his musical studies.

Nordraak's cousin and close friend was the Norwegian writer, Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson. With him, Rikard became involved with the Nye Norske Selskab (The New Norwegian Society) and became active in the Nationalistic Movement in Norway. He met Ole Bull and L. M. Lindeman. Impressed by L. M. Lindeman's collection of Norwegian folkmusic, Nordraak started to collect Norwegian folkmusic, and to use it in his own compositions.

He went back to Berlin for two more years of study, then Nordraak returned to Copenhagen. There he met and became close friends with Edvard Grieg. With Grieg, he organized a musical society dedicated to the performance of works by young Scandinavian composers. Nordraak introduced Grieg to the concept of using the music of their homeland in their compositions. In May of 1864, the song which Nordraak had written to his cousin, Bj. Bjørnson's words, "Ja, Vi Elsker Dette Landet" (Yes, We Love This Land), became the Norwegian national anthem. In 1865, Rikard returned to Berlin to study. He contracted tuberculosis, and died there in 1866.

Nordraak did not live long enough to produce a great quantity of music; he was only 23 when he died. None of his songs are on this CD, but his influence on Edvard Grieg was enormous. Without Rikard Nordraak, Edvard Grieg might have continued composing in the "German Style," and never found his own voice as a Norwegian composer.

 

 

Alfred Paulsen

Alfred Paulsen is best known for his patriotic songs, “Naar Fjordene Blaaner” (When the Fjords Become Blue) and “Norge Mit Norge” (Norway, My Norway). Born in Christiania (later called Oslo) in 1849, he was a student of both L.M. Lindeman and Edvard Grieg. He also received musical training in Germany. He wrote “Naar Fjordene Blaaner” while he was living in Chicago, Illinois, working as an organist and conducting a male chorus, The Norwegian Quartet Club. He died in 1936.

 

Adolf Thomsen

Adolf Thomsen is best known for his song, “Barndomsminne Fraa Nordland.” He was born in 1852. A renowned organist, he was organ master of Tromso Cathedral. He was part of the Nationalistic Movement in Norway. He died in 1903.

 

Geirr Tveitt

Geirr Tveitt, composer of "Vi Skal Ikkje Sova Burt Sumarnatta," was born in Bergen in 1908. He received his first piano training as a child when he was living in Drammen. During holidays, his family went to their family farm by the Hardanger fjord in western Norway.. There, he became very interested in Norwegian folk music. As a child, he studied both the piano and violin. The Norwegian composer, Christian Sinding, encouraged the young Geirr Tveitt to try composing. He went abroad to study music at the State Academy in Leipzig, where his Two-Part Inventions was published, and his Piano Concerto No. 1 was performed by the Leipzig Symphony Orchestra. He then went to Paris to study composition and orchestration with Honegger and Villa-Lobos.

After his return to Norway, Tveitt made an extensive collection of Norwegian folk tunes. He used both the tunes themselves, and the tonality of Norwegian folk music in his compositions. He is perhaps best known for his orchestral suites, "A Hundred Hardanger Tunes." After WWII, he toured Europe as a classical pianist. In the 1960s, he started to work as a radio producer in Oslo.

Tragically, a fire in 1970 at his family farm in Hardanger destroyed all of his folk music collection, and most of the manuscripts for his compositions. Geirr Tveitt never recovered from this loss, and he stopped composing. He died in 1981.