Norway Music Part I

By | December 17, 2021

Ethnic, geographical, linguistic and political factors mean that in Norway even music has over the centuries many points of fusion with that of other peoples of northern Europe rather than of contact. With reason, the music of both of these peoples has been summarized and observed under the generic aspect of Scandinavian music. Pure diversity and intimate and profound characteristics already exist in the germ of this musical life, which in this germinal state lasted for a long time: in popular song. Diversity that will emerge to emphasize the musical features of individual peoples only very late: in the century. XIX, when, in contact with German musical romanticism, those peoples will also definitively enter the current of European musical civilization.

In the first centuries, the music of Norway is reduced to that of war songs, songs, dances of the people, church songs. And it will remain inseparable from the spirit of poetry for a long time. The warlike song, consisting of exclamation phrases cadenced in chorus, used to be combined with a kind of mimic dance, to which the cadenced singing ended up serving as accompaniment, later replaced by musical instruments. The marked didactic and moralizing tendencies soon gave rise to a popular gnomic poem, whose learning was attempted with alliteration, declamation and, on festive occasions, with choir singing. Even among the poems in the Nordic language some were meant to be sung and one word: liod (song), added to the title immediately denounced this property and that of the accompaniment of instruments. Among the songs of the people: Folkeviser, the Stev improvised competing between two people and sung without accompaniment of instruments stand out. Which, in the remote period, are the primitive instruments common to many peoples and especially to the Nordics: bronze horns, bowed fideln, the langleik, stringed, with a flat and elongated sound box, instrument for which s ‘they indicate annual popular competitions; the Hardanger violin, with sympathetic strings, the wheel lyre, fifes, pastoral bagpipes; all instruments that will not leave the popular and folklore sphere. Of the national dances, especially two: the indiavolata springer, in twos, in ternary rhythm, nervous and dry: and halling, alone, in binary rhythm, are characteristic. Future composers will draw a lot from it. For Norway 2014, please check thesciencetutor.org.

Norway, a nation of sailors, therefore of people exposed to risk, and for centuries lived in submission or constricting communion with other peoples, creates an intense and vigorous folk song, in its nostalgic intonation, well distinguishable from that of other neighboring peoples, usually more elegiac, vague, and less prominent. The grave character will have corroborated it with the soon accepted ecclesiastical element; since Christianity, after a few sporadic appearances, definitively penetrated under Olaf the saint (dethroned in 1028) in Norway. The ways liturgical chant is indelibly impressed in popular song, which portrays a certain free pace and expressive density. This influence will continue to inform Norwegian art through any development of techniques. In fact, the music of art is at first mainly cultivated by organists; and the first production will be at the same time, in addition to elaborate collections or inventions of choral songs (choral singing is a characteristic of this people), of compositions for organ or in any case religious.

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the influence of the sixteenth-seventeenth-century Italian vocal polyphonism and melodrama, known throughout Denmark, is noticeable. Of mediocre importance are the municipal musicians of the cities which, moreover, in the eighteenth century are replaced by those of the Royal Chapel of Denmark. The beginnings of a musical practice as an elaborate art are found only on the decline of the century. XVIII. And it is from this moment that, strictly speaking, we can speak of Norwegian music. The list of musicians begins with the names of FC Groth (1795) and Flintenberg (1735), organist and composer of religious music. Of greater importance is the Lindemann family, eminent organists, with Ole Andreas as the progenitor (1769-1859); and of which Louis Mathias (1812-1887), notable theorist and composer, greatly contributed to the development of the national art with his collection of 540 Norwegian folk dances and songs. This is followed by a very large phalanx of musicians, who prepared the ground for the flowering of an authentic Norwegian art, strengthening the technique and studying popular song in order to find the source of the genuine national spirit. They are: Waldemar Thrane (1790-1828), founder of a string quartet in Christiania and author of sing, overtures and chamber music, intended in popular color; Carl Arnold (1794-1873), who will be teacher of H. Kjerulf (1815-1868), one of the first Norwegian composers for inventive freshness and popular sentiment, and then E. Grieg’s first ally in the struggle for a national art; and of S. Svendsen, also a valid help in this fight. F. Reissiger (1809-1883), organist and conductor; Otto Winter-Hjelm (1837), as well as organist and conductor, writer; Edmond Neupert (1842-1888), child prodigy, who in 1880 went to occupy the chair of piano at the Moscow Conservatory called there by Nicola Rubinstein, to conclude his artistic life as a concert player in America; J. Selmer (1844), orchestral composer, introducer of the programmatic trends already initiated by Hector Berlioz.

To these masters should be added: Catharinus Elling (1858); Christian Capellen (1845) organ virtuoso; Agathe (1847) and Olaf (1847) Grøndahl; Johannes Hårklou (1847) organist, author of symphonies, oratories, instrumental music, and musicologist; Peter Lindemanna (1858).

Norway Music