Thursday, May 14, 2015

Norwegian Folk Found in Classical Music: Johan Svendsen

Last time we looked at how folk music influenced Edvard Grieg’s output. What about lesser-known composer Johan Svendsen (1840–1911)? He lived and composed during the same era as Grieg and, though not as nationalistic as Grieg, still found influence from his native land.

Svendsen grew up surrounded by music as his father was a military musician. He played violin for the first part of his career but ended up having to give it up when a nervous disorder in his hand prohibited his ability to perform.

During his time in Norway, Svendsen organized his own orchestra, the Norwegian Music Society, and became the second conductor for the Euterpe concerts. The time spent working alongside Grieg was one that both composers enjoyed and found fruitful.

Below are a few examples of Svendsen’s folk-inspired music. First, listen to the Norwegian Artists’ Carnival that depicts a Norwegian carnival in Rome. The artists are represented by Norwegian folk music while Rome is represented by an Italian folk theme. 

Of Svendsen’s folk-inspired output, the Norwegian Rhapsodies, Op. 17, 19, 21, and 22 are perhaps the most popular. They borrow many themes from Ludvig Mathias Lindeman’s Old and New Norwegian Mountain Melodies. Grieg used the same melodies as inspiration when writing his own Norwegian Dances. 

Join me next time as we travel to England and look at how Holst used folk in his compositions! 

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