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
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.
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 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.
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.
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,
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.
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
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.
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
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 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 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.
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
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.