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Denmark - Culture - Music
Friedrich Kuhlau, 1786-1832, was born in Uelzen in Germany and started his career in 1804 as a pianist in Hamburg. In 1810, however, he fled to Copenhagen to avoid Napoleon's occupying troops. His appearance in the Royal Theatre in 1811 with his Piano Concerto was a success, and he subsequently settled in the city. However, he often travelled abroad, not least to Vienna, where he met Beethoven, on whom he modelled himself. Kuhlau's many compositions for piano and especially for flute are intended for both the amateur and the virtuoso. Many of them were written for financial or educational reasons and were quickly published both in Denmark and abroad. Kuhlau wrote the music for several ballad operas, including Lulu (1824) and his best known work, the music for the national festival drama Elverhøi (1828, The Elfin Mound) to a text by J.L. Heiberg, which is the piece most often performed in the Royal Theatre.
Anne Ørbæk Jensen
Christian Horneman (1828), Ole Woldbye/Musikhistorisk Museum
Carl Nielsen, 1865-1931, is the most important figure in Danish musical life in the 20th century, exerting a great influence on later generations of Danish and Scandinavian composers. The symphonies, especially nos. 3-5, are at the very heart of his production, marked by an interesting treatment of motifs and rhythmical intensity. Nielsen's ability to characterise is seen in his operas, Saul og David (1898-1901, Saul and David) and Maskarade (1904-1906, Masquerade) and in lesser vocal works such as Fynsk Foraar (1921, Springtime in Funen). His simple folksong-like songs became very widely known and still form an important part of Danish singing tradition. In chamber music, Carl Nielsen revealed a sense for the individual instrument, e.g. in his Quintet for Wind Instruments (1922), and this is also heard in his Violin Concerto (1911) and Flute Concerto (1926), and in the monumental organ composition Commotio (1930-1931). Carl Nielsen described his model, Mozart, in an essay which together with many of his other writings, published in Levende Musik (1925, Living Music) and the memoirs Min fynske Barndom (1927, My Childhood in Funen) exerted an influence on the musical views of the time, all supplemented by his work as a conductor.
Anne Ørbæk Jensen
Per Nørgård, b.1932, is a pupil of Vagn Holmboe and Finn Høffding, supplemented with training in the Royal Danish Academy of Music. Until c. 1960 his compositions were endowed with a special Nordic tone, as can be heard for instance in Konstellationer (Constellations) (1958). After encountering the Central European style he experimented in his dramatic works with quotations and collage. For instance in works such as Fragment I-IV and V(1959-1961), Per Nørgård developed the so-called infinity series with specific combinations of intervals, and he also worked with the golden mean. These principles found expression in Rejse ind i den gyldne skærm (Journey into the Golden Screen) (1968) and Canon (1970-1972), and he developed them further, partly under the influence of music from the Far East for instance in the opera Siddharta (1973-1979). In his recent works Per Nørgård is preoccupied with the concept of time and inspired by the poetAdolph Wõlfli, e.g. in the opera Det guddommelige Tivoli (1983, The Divine Circus) and this, supplemented by his work as a teacher and writer, places him at the centre of contemporary Danish musical life. In 1996 he was awarded the Léonie Sonning Prize for Music on which occasion his Piano Concerto in due tempi was given its first performance.
Anne Ørbæk Jensen
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