On Modern Music in Norway c 1930

Important events in the history of modern music in Norway in the first half of the 20th century

Rune J. Andersen

In the history of the reception of new French music in Norway there are at least four events that stand out: the introduction of Claude Debussy’s music 9 December 1906, Maurice Ravel’s visit in 1926, Igor Stravinsky’s visit in 1932 and the performance of Honegger’s Le Roi David in the same year.[1] The first performance of Debussy’s music in 1906 was the start of the influence of new French music in Norway. Until 1925, when other new trends became apparent, Debussy was the one to “make way” at this early stage.

Without comparison Debussy was the one new French composer whose works was performed most often between 1900 and 1940. In fact, until 1920 he was almost the only one. His music was favourably received by the audience, music critics on the other hand, were for the first 15 years or so more or less negative throughout. Gradually, however, he won increasing understanding and respect, especially from 1920 onwards, a fact most beneficial to Ravel and the younger new French composers. Their music also had to endure a rough time, but not nearly as rough as what Debussy’s had to go through up until the beginning of the 1920’s.

The two first Norwegian composers showing an influence from Debussy and new French music— Alf Hurum and Pauline Hall—up to around 1920 also had to endure opposition by the critics; it must, however, be correct to say that the critics were less negative toward them than they were as far as Debussy is concerned.

The group of music critics in Kristiania/Oslo[2] 1900–1940 consisted of composers, professional musicians and musical lay-men. What caracterized the group when Debussy’s music was introduced in 1906 was their conservative musical basis rooted in the German classic-romantic tradition. Even if their negative attitude became less pronounced as time went by, none of the 1906-critics ever really accepted the new French music. Only the younger critics as they took over showed a greater understanding.[3]

In addition to the severe grip the classic–romantic tradition had had in Norway the very weak influence from other radical trends from the European continent was another reason causing the resistance against the new French music. The turbulence that radical trends often caused had never really occurred in Norway until the performance of Debussy’s music in 1906. Neither Liszt, Wagner nor Berlioz had gained any foothold in Norway. The only Norwegian composer to be really impressed by Wagner was Gerhard Schjelderup (1859–1933), and only Johan Svendsen (1840–1911) and Johan Selmer (1844–1910]—later on to some extent also Hjalmar Borgstrøm (1864–1925)—showed an influence from Berlioz. Even if works by Liszt, Wagner and Berlioz had been and still were performed in Norway at this time, their music could not match in number of performances with that of the classics, Grieg and other Norwegian composers. Edvard Grieg in a way sums up the whole situation in Norway at the time of Debussy’s introduction writing in his diary after attending the rehearsal 8 December 1906: “Thanks to Halvorsen [the conductor] we have a feeling of being part of the musical life of Europe these days.”[4]

The first new French composers in Norway: Debussy, Ravel and Dukas

The performers of Debussy’s music 9 December 1906 at the National Theatre in Kristiania was the theatre’s own orchestra under the direction of the conductor Johan Halvorsen (1864–1935). Two days earlier Debussy had been introduced in a lengthy article in Aftenposten, one of the nation’s most prominent newspapers. In the article, the author Magnus Synnestvedt, a Norwegian journalist living in Paris where he belonged to les Apaches, a group connected to Maurice Ravel, gave an in-depth revue of Debussy. Synnestvedt gave Debussy the status of a prophet as he wrote: “In the thousands of years with music history, there may not be any other example of such an important step of progress ... .”[5] It was unfortunate and unnecessary that Synnestvedt in the same article made statements which could be understood as a depreciation of the then dominant music, which he found to be too much influenced by “symmetrical constructions”[symmetriske Konstruktioner], “advanced variations in the rhythm”[Kunstgreb I Rhytmerne], “changing of keys”[Tonearternes Vexlen], and “exercises in the development of themes ... . All this rhetoric could end up corrupting our taste ... .” [6]

After the extensive presentation in Aftenposten, the expectations to the music of Debussy must have been great at the concert 9 December. The program was entirely devoted to French music: Scènes poétiques by Godard, Tristia from Hamlet by Berlioz, Tarantelle for flute, clarinet and orchestra by Saint-Saëns and Carnaval romain by Berlioz. Debussy was represented by Prélude à l’Après-midi d’un Faune and by Nuages and Fêtes from Nocturnes.

The music of Debussy seems, as previously mentioned, to have found favour with the audience.[7] The critics on the other hand were very negative. It seems as if they were caught off guard—they did not know the music. Otto Winter-Hjelm, composer, organist and music critic in the Aftenposten regarded Debussy as one who “was naively recommended, viewed as a youthful publicity stunt from Paris, held up as a Prophet, whose mission it was to change the present misconceptions of tonality, erase the results of two–three thousand years.” What we are left with, is nothing more than “a sickly, simplified preference, a total stranger to true imagination.”[8] The other critics with little variation agreed with Winter-Hjelm, but a couple of them admitted that if they heard his music performed repeatedly, habit might make them change their mind.

In the midst of the aesthetic confusion that the music of Debussy created, it seems like only Edvard Grieg managed to keep a clear mind. Together with his wife he attended the concert. Although even he had reservations as far as Debussy’s music being the foundation for future trends, he wrote favourably in his diary about what he had heard:

To get acquainted with Debussy certainly was, for a connoisseur like me, to discover a truly tasty morsel. He spins a brilliant web of orchestral sound. Wonderful harmony, completely non-traditional but genuinely felt—albeit overdone ... . But they must not establish a school along these lines. Unfortunately it is undoubtedly going to happen anyway, for what we have here is something that the copy-cat composers can imitate.[9]

Despite the very negative reviews given by the critics, a general curiosity to Debussy’s music must have been raised. In-between the two mentioned concerts his string quartet op. 10 was performed in a private concert in the Kvartettforeningen (The Quartet society—a private club performing chamber music) in Oslo 27 January 1907. There are no reviews from this performance. But there is no reason to believe that the reception was any different than it was when the quartet was given two performances in the same society in 1912. Bjarne Brustad (1895–1978), composer and viola player in the quartet performing Debussy’s quartet in 1912, wrote that the quartet “was met with various objections, which caused considerable commotion at the tables in the respectable crowd.”[10]

Ravel and Dukas received much of the same negative attention as Debussy, although there are variations. On 10 October, 1908, the pianist Maria Avani-Carreras performed Ravels Jeux d’eau. The composition got mixed critics in the press. One critic wrote: “That such an insignificant piece of music as Ravel’s Vandlege [Jeux d’eau] could be so interesting, was solely due to the pianist’s skills in delicate runs and excellent phrasing”.[11] In his review the composer Hjalmar Borgstrøm wrote that Ravel’s music found little understanding among the audience. He himself was far more receptive: “A daring idea by the French composer Ravel Jeux d’eau did not seem to find an adequate understanding in its audience. I hope for a repeat, the music is much too interesting to fail after only one try.”[12] The next performance of music by Ravel took place 28 October, 1910, when the pianist Harold Bauer played the Undine. Ravel does not receive much attention by the newspapers this time either. Winter-Hjelm had to admit that the music did create a certain interest in the hands of such a formidable pianist as Bauer.[13] Hjalmar Borgstrøm stressed once again the necessity of hearing the work again—“a repetition would make the listener comfortable with the idea behind this entertaining piece.”[14]

Paul Dukas was introduced in 1911 with the L’Apprenti sorcier performed by Musikforeningen (the Music Association), the predecessor of the Philharmonic Orchestra (Philharmonic Society), conducted by the composer Iver Holter at a concert 28 January. There is still the overall negative attitude among the critics, although some had to admit that there were certain good qualities to be found in Dukas’ work. A growing number of them also brought up the earlier mentioned idea of hearing this new music repeatedly. Reidar Mjøen in Dagbladet described Dukas’ orchestral piece as “the most horrid howling. But the modern ear hears things a little differently, and can to a certain extent accept even such orchestral deliriums as these French ones, when they are as entertainingly done as in the music of Dukas.”[15] In the Tidens Tegn the critic “A. A.” wrote that “Dukas on the other hand one has to hear often before forming an opinion of the content in his music. Only this much can be said, his use of the orchestra is indeed refined and original and full of entertaining twists.”[16]

Debussy makes way for a change in attitude

Until Ravels visit in February 1926, Debussy was, as already mentioned, the most significant new French composer in the concert programs. Ravel and Dukas had a considerably more modest standing. We can find Debussy in a total of 186 programs, Ravel in 32 and Dukas in eight prior to Ravels visit. With Debussy we find two main characteristics: First of all a general trend which shows that the songs and especially the piano pieces were the groups most often performed—as a musical spice in the average program. As of 1914 another characteristic appears. As far as the piano music is concerned the artists no longer performed individual pieces only. Gradually they put the complete piano works by Debussy in the program. In both cases the works are from Debussy’s mature period. Until 1914, the year when an entire piano work was performed for the first time with Suite Bergamasque, the following piano pieces were the ones most played: Jardins sous la pluie, Toccata, La Soirée dans Grenade, Reflets dans l’eau, Poisson d’or, and La Cathédrale englouitie.

Concerning Debussy’s songs, a mixture of early and more mature works were performed. Already in 1910 three songs from the Ariettes ouibliée—specifically Il pleure dans mon coeur, Chevaux de bois, and Green were performed. In 1911 and 1913 Les Cloches from Deux romances were performed, and in 1912 La Chevelure from Chanson de Bilitis followed, in 1913 Romance from Deux romances and that same year, Fantoches from Fêtes galantes. However, compared with the piano music, several more years had to pass before a complete song cycle was performed. Until 1926 only two cycles are found. The first is Fêtes galantes, 1st series, which was performed 23 March 1920, the other one being the Ariettes oubliées on 4 October 1922.

As the number of presentations with new French music slowly increased, various informational articles started to appear—the first in 1914. Without doubt the articles became an important addition to the performances and gradually, even if slowly, they lead to a greater openness for the new French music.[17] From around 1920 a change in the sympathy and understanding of Debussy took place. In connection with a French concert held by Philharmonic Orchestra 10 November 1924, one of the critics recognized Debussy as the one who makes way for the music of the new time in Europe, he brings “the new style, the new age, not only in French, but in European music.”[18] In Morgenbladet however, we find a review indicating that the change in attitude had not only happened as regarding Debussy. The first-time-performances that took place with several of the younger new French composers in the beginning of the 1920’s—along with the mentioned articles—must have led to an expansion of horizon and perspective. The unidentified author of the review in fact regrets that none of the younger new French composers were performed at the French concert: “The young musical France was not represented, none of the revolutionary ‘Les Six’ (Milhaud, Hoenegger etc.) had been included in the program. This evening only the older generation was performed—even Debussy is now a classic ... .”[19]

Maurice Ravel’s and Igor Stravinsky’s visits

It was not until 1920 that Ravel’s name really began to make itself known in the concert programs. First of all he was represented through piano pieces and a few songs. Including Jeux d’eau, which was played most often, Ondine from Gaspard de la nuit, the Sonatine for piano and Le Tombeu de Couperin are found. The first work including orchestra is La Flûte enchantée from Shéhérazade, which was performed by the Philharmonic Orchestra in 1921, followed by La Valse in 1922. The String quartet in F major was performed for the first time in 1920, then in 1923 and 1925. In connection with the performance of the string quartet in 1923 (a performance which was mistaken to be a first time performance of the quartet in Norway), most critics were very favourable. In Aftenposten Borgstrøm wrote that in the beginning one might “hesitate over some of the many bold departures from the conventional; but it does not take long before one finds great joy in the lovely themes and the refined, captivating sound.”[20] Arne van Erpekum Sem described Ravel’s quartet as “a very interesting work which captivates by its wealth in peculiar, contrasting motives, by its changing rhythms and its very modern, most often resounding harmonies.”[21] Reidar Mjøen in Dagbladet found the work “influenced by all the refined rhythm an harmony that is so descriptive for this new Frenchman ... a pure and fine lyrical mood dominates most of its parts.”[22]

Ravel’s visit was rendered a lot of publicity with articles and interviews. The composer David Monrad Johansen went as far as to say that it could be “compared to something like a Chopin or a Schumann visiting our part of the world in the 30’s or 40’s.”[23] A major element in the presentation was Ravel’s relation to Debussy. An article emphasized the fact that Ravel started out by following in Debussy’s footsteps, but “with a basis in Debussy’s work he has created something new and independent, a clear, spirited and transparent harmony which can not be mistaken as anyone else’s work ... . The harmony is the one element where Ravel and Debussy are the closest. Otherwise the two composers are opposites in nearly every aspect ... While Debussy is an impressionist and symbolist, Ravel is a neoclassic.”[24] In Morgenbladet Jens Arbo deals with several of Ravel’s works after first giving a historical review where he places Ravel as a transitional character between the older French music and Debussy on the one hand, and the latest trends on the other. Concerning the difference between Debussy and Ravel Arbo wrote that “with Debussy colour is the most distinct, with Ravel the form, which always is masterful, clear and concise and related to the simplicity of classicism.”[25] In David Monrad Johansen’s great article in Aftenposten, Ravel’s visit is seen in light of the development of Norwegian art history. Monrad Johansen strongly regrets that our musicians had not shown a greater interest in new French music. He feels that this had caused irreparable damage to the national music development. In fact it has stagnated because of this.[26] “In more than one way it is therefore quite an occasion when an outstanding representative for new French music and modern art such as Maurice Ravel introduces himself tomorrow, to a Norwegian audience at the concert to which Philharmonic Orchestra has invited the notable artist. This is not only the most prominent artist of France, it is also one of the most interesting art personalities of our times that we on this rare occasion meet face to face.”[27]

The expectations to Ravel’s visit were not met, neither were the expectations to the number of people showing up for the concert. The disappointment was mainly caused by the quality of the performance. There was not enough time for rehearsals with the Filharmonisk selskap, subsequently only minor pieces could be performed—piano pieces, songs and pieces for violin and piano. The review by Odd Grüner-Hegge in Dagbladet represents the view that the critics had of Ravel’s concert.[28] Grüner-Hegge recognized the quality of Ravel’s works, but is still critical and has stern objections to the performance at the concert. He found that it often is

something eclectic about Ravel, that one sometimes get a feeling of emptiness, an artist which in so many ways seek to absorb and express foreign values, because he can not bring out more of himself ... . Everywhere one notices the refined, confident artist, where the intellectual momentum is most prominent ... . However it would not be fare to judge Ravel’s work, based on the limited selection we got to hear at Saturday’s concert ... . One must not forget that several of Ravel’s most important works are found within the realms of orchestral- and piano music, not to mention ballet and opera. To add to this Ravel had begotten the mistake of associating himself with a dilettante “singer”. To critique Louise Alvar’s efforts is to offer them to much praise. It is sad, but true: a performer has in his power to distort and destroy anything, and in particular the most delicate and refined. Not even the composer is a first class interpreter. The amazing thing was not that he lacked in piano skills, but that he was unable to bring out the beauty in his own work.[29]

Despite the mixed reception Ravel’s concert received, this did not mean a set back for his music or for other new French music. The development shows that Debussy, Ravel and some of the younger new French composers from now one in a way became part of the standard concert repertoires. While the image of the new and revolutionary music around 1910 was more or less synonymous with the music by Debussy, the picture is more complex around 1925, but still headed by new French music. Starting in 1925, other trends, especially from Germany but also Norwegian, were making themselves known.[30]

The climax in the presentation of the younger Parisian composers came with the performance of Honegger’s Le Roi David on 10 and 11 May 1932, and the visit of Stravinsky a few months later. The performance of Le Roi David received considerable attention. Both the work as well as the composer were properly presented in the press. Le Roi David made a powerful impression despite the fact that several critics had objections as to the mixing of styles in the composition. An excerpt from a review written by David Monrad Johansen will serve as an example of the reception of the work. The review is full of praise as well as critical remarks. One of the things that Monrad Johansen stressed was that the work mirrored the situation for composers in the post World War 1 period:

The strength of the work is found in its alluring and often captivating outer appearance that the composer gives to his musical thought and ideas. But this is also where he shows himself to be a true master. It is with unusual precision and an ability to characterize the different scenes of King David’s life that makes him close to a virtuoso ... However this work will most likely be left to posterity as an interesting document, illustrating the confusion and disarray which affected the music of the early post World War 1 years. It testifies of a composer raised in the midst of multitude of impressions, and who also knows both old and new music intimately and who has grasped his task of composing in a healthy and unreflecting manner. And this, which at first may have seemed as an appeal, as the composer without hesitation has used precisely what he needed at the moment, a trait which has become the greatest asset of the work, as it gives a captivating sense of freshness and spontaneity. If on the other hand, one seeks the inner strength, the inner content, in short the unforgettable concern and true devotion, which is the true life and core of all art, well, yes then one will be—disappointed.[31]

The music of Stravinsky was introduced for the first time in Norway with a piano piece 17 September, 1924. On 14 and 15 March, 1926, the first work for orchestra—the suite from L’Oiseau de feu—was performed by the Philharmonic Orchestra with Pierre Monteux conducting. In Norway Stravinsky at this time had a reputation as the “enfant terrible” of music. The first performance of the suite from L’Oiseau de feu was thoroughly discussed in the papers. David Monrad Johansen wrote in his review that it was wise to introduce Stravinsky with this piece, but hoped “that other works by Stravinsky will follow this introduction and that we by this can be made more familiar with the present times.” [32]

In October 1932, Stravinsky himself visited Oslo to conduct his own compositions with the Philharmonic Orchestra on 15 and 19 October. This was considered an event as important, or maybe even more so, than Ravel’s visit. The visit received detailed and instructive coverage in the press. The program for the first concert included Apollon Musagète, Huit Pieces Faciles and the suites from Pulcinella and Petrouchka; at the second concert he repeated the same program, but replaced Apollon Musagète with the suite from L’Oiseau de feu. In general there was one opinion about Stravinsky, here represented by a statement from a review written by the conductor Thorolf Voss: “In short, he was a magician with music ... .”[33] In November the next year, Le Sacre du printemps followed with the Philharmonic Orchestra and Olav Kielland conducting. Again the critics were positive. Arne van Erpekum Sem wrote of “the nearly superhuman intensity and power in the expression and primitive rhythms, which seem to originate in the very beginning of music, although it is a result of refined and complicated means.”[34]

The Performers

Of the 746 programs including new French works in the years 1900–1940, 415 were performed by Norwegian performers, 253 by foreign and 78 by Norwegian/foreign. The Philharmonic Orchestra was the leading institution in this context. The permanent conductors of the orchestra were for great parts of the period foreigners: the Finn Georg Schnéevoigt 1919-27, the German-American José Eibenschütz 1921-27, the Russian Issay Dobrowen 1927-31 (followed by the Norwegian Olav Kielland 1931-45)—in addition the Frenchman Robert Soëtens was concertmaster. That this had a certain influence on the program selection, has to be taken into account. But we can hardly speak of a foreign control as the programs through the period show a balance to new and old, Norwegian and foreign music.

Among the French conductors Pierre Monteux visited the Philharmonic Orchestra in February 1925. He then performed the two first orchestral Nocturnes as well as Prélude à l’Après-midi d’un Faune by Debussy. At his second visit, in March 1926, he conducted, as mentioned above, the first orchestral work by Stravinsky to be performed in Norway—the suite from L’Oiseau de feu—in addition to L’Apprenti sorcier by Dukas. The French conductor Rhené-Baton conducted at the Philharmonic Orchestra May 1927 in Albert Roussel’s Le Festin de l’araignée and Fêtes from Debussy’s Nocturnes. The Swiss conductor Ernest Ansermet visited Norway in March 1936, conducting at the Philharmonic Orchestra in Debussy’s La Mer and Prélude à l’Après-midi d’un Faune. In March and April 1938, the Philharmonic Orchestra was visited by the Frenchman Albert Wolff who conducted La Mer, Florent Schmitt’s La Tragedie de Salomé and Milhaud’s Piano concerto with the Norwegian pianist Ivar Johnsen as soloist.

Looking at the first performances of new French music, the most important performances were by Norwegian musicians: Claude Debussy in 1906 - the Orchestra of the National theatre/Johan Halvorsen; Paul Dukas in 1911 - the Musikforeningen/Iver Holter; Louis Aubert in 1923 - the Filharmonisk selskap/Georg Schnéevoigt; Florent Schmitt in 1924 - the Philharmonic Orchestra /José Eibenschütz;[35] Arthur Honegger in 1924 - the Philharmonic Orchestra /Olav Kielland; Albert Roussel in 1925 - the Philharmonic Orchestra /José Eibenschütz. Foreign performers did the following first performances of new French composers: Maurice Ravel in 1908—the pianist Maria Avani-Carreras; Roger Ducasse in 1920—the Russian pianist Alexander Siloti; Darius Milhaud in 1922—the pianist Franz Kiær; Igor Stravinsky in 1924—the pianist Irene Scharrer (the next performance of Stravinsky with the suite from L’Oiseau de feu with the Philharmonic Orchestra and Pierre Monteux in 1926, is naturally of greater importance); Francis Poulenc and Erik Satie in 1926—the pianist Arthur Shattuck.

(Translated from Norwegian by Anne-Marie Ytterhorn)

 


[1] This article deals with the events in Oslo as there are very few and incomplete sources showing performances of new French music outside of the Norwegian capital. Despite this I still find it correct to use “Norway” in the title—the main musical events in Norway at this time took place in the capital and therefore of national importance.

It is of course a fact that neither Stravinsky nor Honegger was native Frenchmen. However, both are usually labelled «French» during this period of time, Honegger because he became member of the group «Les Six» in Paris and Stravinsky because he is so closely conected with the musical development in France.

See also Andersen, Rune J.: “Ny-franske komponister i norsk musikkliv 1900–1940: en resepsjonshistorisk introduksjon” [New French composers in the musical life of Norway, 1900–1940: An introduction]. <http://www.notam.uio.no/norgesmusikk/bulletin>[]

2 The name of the Norwegian capital was changed from «Kristiania» into «Oslo» in 1925.[]

3 As the names of the critics show up in the text below a short information about them is given in the footnotes.[]

4 “Takket være Halvorsen, lever vi dog nu lidt i et musikalsk Europa heroppe.” Entry in Grieg’s diary 8 December 1906.[]

5 “I vor musikalske Kunsts tusenaarige Udvikling gives der kanske intet Exempel paa et saa betydeligt Fremskridt...”. Magnus Synnestvedt in “Claude Debussy, Reformator, Skaber, Digter. Nye Baner i Musiken” [Claude Debussy, reformer, genius, poet. A new course in the music], Aftenposten 7 December 1906.[]

6 “Øvelser i Themaernes Udarbeidelse ... Al denne Rhetorik kan ende med at fordærve vor Smag...”. Synnestvedt: Op. cit.[]

7 Already 7 February the next year the orchestra repeated the performance of Prélude à l’Après-midi d’un Faune and Fêtes, «by popular demand» as the program reads.[]

8 “... var med naiv-geschæftig, ungdommelig Reklame fra Paris anbefalet som en Profet, der hadde det Kald at vende hele den nuværende vildfarende Opfatning af de musikaliske Toneforhold om, stryge de to-tre tusind Aars Resultater” ... “En sygelig, ensidig Smagsretning, som er fremmed for virkelig frisk Fantasiflugt ...”. Otto Winter-Hjelm in Aftenposten 11 December 1906.[]

9 “At lære Debussy at kjende, var jo for en Feinschmecker den rene Schmaus. Det er en genial Orkestervæv, han stiller op. En forunderlig Harmonik, løst fra alle traditioner, men ægte og følt – dog overdrevet ... Men der må ikke dannes Skole i denne Retning. Desværre vil det vist ske alligevel, thi her er netop noget for Kopister af Faget at eftergøre.” Entry in Edvard Grieg’s diary, December 8, 1906, quoted from Benestad and Schjelderup-Ebbe: Edvard Grieg. The Man and the Artist (translated by W. H. Halverson and L. B. Sateren) 1988 p. 358.[]

10 “... ble den mottatt med indignerte protester, og det var atskillig røre ved småbordene i den aktverdige forsamling”. Bjarne Brustad i Liv og virke I ord og toner, Oslo 1971, p. 23.[]

11 “At en saadan musikalsk Ubetydelighed som Ravels ‘Vandlege’ blev saa morsom, skyldtes Pianistindens udprægede Ævner for delikat Passagespil og fin Frasering.” The signature «ss» in Ørebladet, 11 October 1908.[]

12 “Et barskt Indfald af den franske Komponist Ravel ‘Jeux d’eau’ syntes ikke at finde tilstrækkelig Forstaaelse hos Publikum. Jeg haaber paa en Gjentagelse; det er altfor morsom Musik til at lade falde for et Forsøg.” Hjalmar Borgstrøm in Verdens Gang 11 October 1908. Hjalmar Borgstrøm (1864–1925) composer educated in Kristiania (M. Ursin, J. Svendsen), Leipzig and Berlin. As a composer he shows some influence by Berlioz.[]

13 Aftenposten, 29 October 1910.[]

14 “... en gjentagelse vilde gjøre publikum fortrolig med tankegangen i det morsomme stykke”. Borgstrøm in Verdens Gang, 29 January 1911.[]

15 “... den absolute kattemusikk. Men moderne øren dømmer jo anderledes om tingene og kan til en vis grad goutere selv saadanne orkestrale delirier som disse franske naar de er så morsomt tourneret som i Dukas stykke.” Reidar Mjøen in Dagbladet, 29 January 1911. Reidar Mjøen (1871–1953), a professional lawyer who had studied music in New York and in Germany. A respected writer on musical topics, and a critic in Dagbladet 1907–25 and in Aftenposten 1925–46.[]

16 Dukas derimot maa høres oftere før man kan danne sig nogen mening om indholdet i hans musik. Kun saa meget kan siges, at hans orkesterbehandling er i høieste grad raffinert og original og strutter av morsomme indfald.” The signature “A.A.” in Tidens Tegn, 29 January 1911.[]

17 It is not practical to discuss the articles in detail here, but a list of the main ones follows: Pauline Hall “Claude Debussy. Krigen og den kommende musikk” in Norsk musikerblad no. 12, 1914; Jens Arbo: “Impressionisme” in Musikbladet no. 3 1919, no. 6 1919 and no. 9 1919, and a number of articles in the cultural review Atlantis.

The article by Georges Jean-Aubry might be a resumé of a lecture titled «Claude Debussy» that he gave at a concert arranged by Alliance française in Kristiania 26 November 1920. On a concert the day before—also arranged by Alliance française—Jean-Aubry had lectured on «Paul Verlaine et la musique». On this concert music by Debussy, Fauré, Ravel, Paul Ladmirault and Charles Bordes were performed, on the second concert only music by Debussy. At both concerts the performers were Louise Alvar and Germaine Tailleferre. The first concert of this form—music and lecture—arranged by Alliance française to promote new French music in Norway, was held in Bergen as early as in March 1913, the lecturer being Paul Landormy and the musical examples performed by his wife. A summary of Landormy’s lecture is printed in Musikbladet no. 17 and 18 1913. It gives a broad overview of the history of French music concentrating on the period from 1870, a point in time after which «compositions of genuinly French way of thinking» were created.[]

18 “... den nye stil, den nye tid, ikke bare i fransk, men europeisk musikk”. Reidar Mjøen in Dagbladet 11 November, 1924. At the concert new French music was represented by Debussy’s Prélude à l’Après-midi d’un Faune and Dukas’ L’Apprenti sorcier.[]

19 «Det unge musikalske Frankrige var ikke repræsentert, ingen av de revolutionære «Les Six» (Milhaud, Honegger o.s.v.) var sluppet indenfor programmet. Denne aften møttes den ældre generation endrægtig – selv Debussy er jo blit klassiker nu – ...» Unsigned critic in Morgenbladet, 11 November 1924.[]

20 “Til at begynde med kan man vel stusse over mangt et dristig brud paa det tilvante; men det varer ikke længe, inden man faar sin store glæde av de nydelige smaa temaer og den raffinerte, henrivende klang.” Hjalmar Borgstrøm in Aftenposten, 5 October 1923.[]

21 “... et meget interessant arbeide som fængsler ved sin rigdom paa eiendommelige, kontrastrike motiver, ved sin vekslende rytmik og sin meget moderne, som oftest klangskjønne harmonisation.” Arne van Erpekum Sem in Tidens Tegn, 5 October 1923. Arne van Erpekum Sem (1873–1951), Norwegian opera-singer (tenor) and teacher of singing; he was educated in Berlin (piano) and in Paris and Wienna (singing).[]

22 “... preget av all den forfinelse i rytme og harmoni som er betegnende for denne ny-franskmann ... en skjær og fin lyrisk stemning er tvertom fremherskende i dets fleste avsnitt.” Reidar Mjøen in Dagbladet, 5 October 1923.[]

23 “... tilsvarende som om i 30-40-aarene en Chopin eller en Schumann hadde søkt op til vore breddegrader” in Monrad Johansen, David: “Maurice Ravel. Nogen betraktninger i anledning av den berømte franske komponists besøk i Norge” [Maurice Ravel. Some viewpoints in connection with the famous French composer’s visit in Norway], in Aftenposten 5. februar 1926.[]

24 “... ut fra Debussys arbeide utviklet noget nyt og selvstendig, en klar, aandfuld og gjennemsiktig harmonisering som ikke kan forveksles med nogen andens. ... Allikevel er harmonien det punkt hvor Ravel og Debussy nærmer sig hverandre mest. Forøvrig er de to komponister i næsten alle retninger motsætninger ... Mens Debussy er impressionist og symbolist, er Ravel ny-klassiker” in Finn Helle: “Maurice Ravel”, Tidens Tegn, 6 February 1926. “Finn Helle” is a pseudonym for Sverre Hagerup Bull (1892–1976), a Norwegian critic and composer who had studied in Paris in 1919–23. He was very activ as a critic and writer on music after the First World War.[]

25 “Hos Debussy er farven det fremherskende, hos Ravel formen, som altid er mesterlig, klar og oversigtlig og forsaavidt i slegt med klassicismens enkelhet” in Arbo, Jens: “Maurice Ravel og de nyere retninger i fransk musik” [Maurice Ravel and the new trends in French musiv], Morgenbladet, 6 February 1926. Jens Arbo (1885–1944) a musical lay-man, however, a respected critic and writer on musical topics. []

[26] Vollsnes, Arvid O. 1996. L'influence de la musique française sur la musique norvégienne au début de XXe siècle. In Grieg et Paris: romantisme, symbolisme et modernisme franco-norvégiens. Ed. Harald Herresthal and Danièle Pistone, 199-210. Caen: Presses universitaires de Caen. []

27 “Det er derfor i mere end en henseende en begivenhet at en saa typisk repræsentant for ny-fransk musik og moderne kunst som Maurice Ravel vil introdusere sig for et norsk publikum ved den konsert som Philharmonic Orchestra imorgen har indbudt den celebre kunstner til. Det er ikke alene Frankrikes første komponist, men tillike en av samtidens interessanteste kunstnerpersonligheter vi denne gang har den sjeldne anledning at stilles ansikt til ansikt med.” Monrad Johansen: Op. cit., Aftenposten, 5 February 1926.[]

28 Odd Grüner-Hegge (1899–1973), Norwegian conductor, pianist and composer. As a composer and pianist educated in Oslo (Winter-Hjelm, G. F. Lange, N. Larsen and F. Backer-Grøndahl), as a conductor he studied with F. Weingartner. He was the chief conductor for the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra 1945–61.[]

29 “Ofte er der imidlertid noget eklektisk ved Ravel, og man får undertiden inntrykk av en tomhet, en kunstner som på mange måter søker å oppta i sig og uttrykke fremmede verdier, fordi han ikke kan hente mer frem av sig selv. ... Overalt merker man jo den raffinerte, sikre artist, hvor det intellektuelle moment er strekt fremtredene ... Imidlertid vilde det være urettferdig å bedømme Ravels produksjon ut fra det begrensede utvalg vi fikk høre ved lørdagens konsert. ... Man må ikke glemme at flere av Ravels betydeligste verker finnes på orkester- og klavermusikkens område foruten ballett og opera. Dertil hadde Ravel begått den synd mot sine egne verker og vårt publikum å mesalliere sig med en ganske dillettantisk «sangerinne». Å kritisere Louise Alvars ydelser er å gjøre alt for meget ære på dem. Det er sørgelig, men sannt: en eksekutør har i sin makt å forvrenge og ødelegge alt, og nettop det sarteste og fineste. Heller ikke komponisten er en førsterangs interpret. Det forbløffende var ikke at han manglet pianistisk ferdighet, men at han ikke maktet å få frem skjønheten i sine egne verker.” Odd Grüner-Hegge in Dagbladet, 8 February 1926.[]

30 Between 1920 and 1931 the following younger new French composers are performed for the first time in Norway, the introductory work is put in parenthesis: Roger Ducasse in 1920 (Etude in E-major for piano), Darius Milhaud in 1922 (Suite for piano), and the following orchestral works: Louis Aubert in 1923 (Habanera), Florent Schmitt in 1924 (La Tragédie de Salomé), Arthur Honegger in 1924 (Pastorale d’Été), and Albert Roussel in 1925 (Les Dieux dans l’ombre des cavernes). Charles Koechlin followed in 1929 and Jean Huré in 1931.[]

31 “Verkets styrke ligger i den bestikkende og ofte helt frapperende ytre drakt komponisten gir sine musikalske tanker og idéer. Men her viser han sig også som en sann mester. Det er med en usedvanlig treffsikkerhet og en næsten virtuos karakteriseringsevne komponisten levendegjør de forskjellige scener av Kong Davids liv ... Imidlertid vil verket for eftertiden sikkert bli stående som et interessant dokument til belysning av den forvirring og opløsning som preget tonekunsten i de første år efter verdenskrigen. Det vidner om en komponist som er opvokst under en vrimmel av inntrykk og som tillike har et inngående kjennskap til både gammel og ny musikk og som har skrevet løs på sin opgave friskt og ureflektert, uten betenkeligheter og grublerier av nogen art. Og dette som til å begynne med kan synes som en anke, idet komponisten uten betenkning har anvendt hvad han i øieblikket hadde bruk for, det er i virkeligheten blitt verkets største aktivum, idet det gir musikken et preg av friskhet og umiddelbarhet som river med. Søker man derimot efter indre styrke, indre gehalt, kort sagt den selvforglemmende optatthet og sanne hengivelse som er all kunsts liv og kjerne, ja da blir man – skuffet.” David Monrad Johansen in Aftenposten, 12 May 1931.[]

32 “Nu faar vi haabe, at der efter denne introduktion vil følge opførelser av flere verker av Strawinsky og at vi derved kan faa os nutiden litt nærmere ind paa livet”. David Monrad Johansen in Aftenposten, 16 March 1926. The most important performances of Stravinsky’s music up until his visit are the following: The Firebird in October 1927, the suite from Pulcinella in November that same year, and in January the following year, the suite Petruschka in October 1928 with a repeat in September 1929, the suite from The Firebird was performed twice in 1930, and the Capriccio for piano and orchestra in October 1931 and in January 1932.[]

33 Aftenposten, 16 October 1931.[]

34 “... den næsten overmenneskelige intensitet og kraft i uttrykket og den levende, ville, primitive rytme, som synes å ha sin opprinnelse i musikkens urtid, selvom den er et resultat av raffinerte og kompliserte midler.” Arne van Erpekum Sem in Tidens Tegn, 24 November 1932.[]

35 Eibenschütz and Schnéevoigt in this connection are counted as Norwegian conductors as they were chief conductors of The Philharmonic orchestra.


Kontaktperson: Arvid Vollsnes.
Oppdatert 04.08.2006 av AOV
Av Rune J. Andersen
Publisert 13. aug. 2010 15:00 - Sist endret 13. aug. 2010 15:07