5 years ago

Viking Jupiter Art Collection

  • Text
  • Norwegian
  • Norway
  • Paintings
  • Viking
  • Artists
  • Widerberg
  • Landscape
  • Photography
  • Motifs
  • Abstract


EXPLORERS’ LOUNGE | DECKS 7–8 COMPOSING A NORWEGIAN NATIONAL IDENTITY THROUGH MUSIC: OLE BULL AND EDVARD GRIEG OLE BULL • 1810–1880 • NORWAY • COMPOSER AND VIOLINIST EDVARD GRIEG • 1843–1907 • NORWAY • COMPOSER AND PIANIST Political borders change, and with them, the social contracts that bind those who live inside them. A nation might be a union of people who share a culture—the common experiences, languages, religions, myths and customs from which their daily lives derive meaning. In 19th-century Europe, as waves of republicanism swept away old dynasties and as once-fragmented states united, these were the issues preoccupying many thinkers. Among them were two Norwegian musical giants, Ole Bull and Edvard Grieg. Aside from their purely musical contributions, they were both proponents of Norway’s Nasjonalromantikken, or National Romanticism, a movement that sought to inspire and strengthen pride in Norwegian culture. It tapped into the spirit of the age. Norway had broken from its union with Denmark in 1814, and though it was still tied to Sweden, it was eager to legitimize its own emergent sovereignty. During its heyday between 1840 and 1870, Norwegian National Romanticism inspired a renewed interest in and idealization of Norway’s history, folk culture and epic landscapes. Scholars such as philologist Ivar Aasen began studying and synthesizing Norwegian dialects into a new Norwegian written language (Nynorsk). Peter Andreas Munch started writing his History of the Norwegian People. Painters including Adolph Tidemand captured idealized scenes of rural life. Folklorists Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jørgen Engebretsen Moe collected Norwegian folk tales. Playwright Henrik Ibsen was an early supporter, and on the musical front, there were Bull and Grieg. Bull was a violin virtuoso whose fame had been gathering since he was a child. By the age of nine, he was playing first violin with the Bergen theater’s orchestra and was a soloist at the city’s philharmonic. In the 1830s, he embarked on an ambitious series of concert tours that increased his fame and fortune. A fervent utopian socialist, Bull advocated for Norway’s complete independence from Sweden and embraced the ideals of Norwegian National Romanticism. His circle included Romantic composers Franz Liszt and Robert Schumann, poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and writers Ibsen and Hans Christian Andersen. In 1850, Bull established the Norwegian Theater in Bergen, the first to stage performances in Norwegian rather than Danish. He was just as determined to discover a distinctive Norwegian tone in music. He was a collector of violins, including several made by Guarneri and Stradivari, but often performed on a violin modeled after Norwegian folk fiddles. His ability to play several tones was reflected in most of his compositions and awed audiences across Europe. Bull’s personal sense of theatrics and his passion for Norwegian culture duly impressed Grieg, who met Bull when he was just 15. Bull was similarly impressed with Grieg’s talent and persuaded his parents to send him to the Leipzig Conservatory for further musical education. Grieg studied there between 1858 and 1862, discovering the works of Felix Mendelssohn and Schumann. As Grieg considered the ideals of German Romanticism, he began seeing parallels for Norwegian music. Upon his return to Norway, he found a kindred spirit in his old mentor, Bull, with whom he remained friends until Bull’s death in 1880. Today, Bull is memorialized all over Norway, where a prestigious music school, the Ole Bull Academy, is named in his honor. Grieg spent a summer with Bull when he was in his early 20s and spent much of this time pursuing his interest in Norwegian folk and dance music. In 1864, Grieg met Rikard Nordraak, the composer of the Norwegian national anthem, in Copenhagen. They became fast friends and bonded over their fascination with Norwegian National Romanticism. That same winter, Grieg helped found Euterpe, a Copenhagen concert society devoted to the music of young Scandinavians. In 1866, Grieg again returned to Norway, settling in Kristiania (now Oslo). Grieg’s career continued to ascend as he perfected a style that movingly reconciled classical and folk influences. Between 1867 and 1901, he published a 10-volume collection of 66 short pieces for solo piano, Lyric Pieces (Lyriske Stykker). Because of this fondness for small- versus large-scale works, Grieg has been described as a master miniaturist. Among his rare longer compositions are the Piano Concerto in A Minor, op. 16; String Quartet no.1 in G Minor, op. 27; and three sonatas for violin and piano and one for cello and piano. Grieg’s best-known work is the incidental music he wrote for Ibsen’s play Peer Gynt, which included the iconic “In the Hall of the Mountain King.” Peer Gynt, op. 23, was later converted into two orchestral suites. It not only represented the pinnacle of Grieg’s musical career, but was one of the most powerful expressions of Norwegian National Romanticism ever created. Grieg’s Slåtter, op. 72, is another example of his appropriation of mythic themes. It was based on 17 Norwegian folk dances that had been passed down for generations. 4 When Grieg died in 1907, his funeral exceeded even that of Bull, drawing up to 40,000 mourners. His ashes were buried on his estate, Troldhaugen, which means “troll valley,” evoking his lifelong love of Norwegian folk culture. He referred to it as “my best composition hitherto.” It is now a museum honoring the beloved composer whose work, along with that of Bull, is an integral part of the Norwegian national identity.