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Hans Christian Andersen and Music Composers

Niels W. Gade
Johan Christian Gebauer
Edvard Grieg
J.P.E. Hartmann
Peter Heise
Fini Henriques
Otto Lindblad
Carl Nielsen
Leopold Rosenfeld
Henrik Rung
Poul Schierbeck
Robert Schumann
C.E.F. Weyse

Niels W. Gade (1817-1890)

One of the leading figures in the musical life of Denmark during the nineteenth century was Niels W. Gade. It is uncertain when he and Andersen met for the first time, but we know that they were together when they visited Baron Løvenskjold in Kulhus in May 1842 along with several other guests. However, Gade knew several of Andersen’s works before this time, in particular his dramatic poem Agnete and the Merman.

A few years later, in February 1846, Andersen visited Leipzig, where Gade was active in 1843–48 as a composer and conductor of the distinguished Gewandhausorchester. Andersen had brought his libretto Nøkken (The Water Spirit) along with him and tried to persuade Gade to write the music for this work, but although it met with Gade’s approval, the opera was never set to music by this composer. It was not until 1853 that it was produced at the Royal Theatre in Copenhagen with music by Franz Gläser, conductor of the Royal Chapel. On the other hand the libretto for one of Gade’s most popular works, the concert piece Elverskud (The Elf King’s Daughter) (1854) was based on a draft written by Andersen.

The two artists maintained a warm regard for each other, strengthened by Andersen’s great affection for Gade’s wife, Sophie, the daughter of the composer J.P.E. Hartmann. Andersen wrote a speech for their wedding in 1851, a lullaby for their newborn twins (May 1855) and then, tragically, some very deeply felt lines when Sophie died less than a month later. Andersen visited Gade on many occasions, and read some of his fairy tales and novels to the family. In addition they met at Hartmann’s home and when visiting the Henriques family in Højbro Plads in Copenhagen, where musical soirées were often held.

[ See Niels W. Gade’s entry in Andersen’s Album here]




Johan Christian Gebauer (1808-1884)

Johan Christian Gebauer was a pupil of Frederik Kuhlau and C.E.F. Weyse and was active from 1846 as an organist, first at St. Petri Kirke (St Peter’s Church) in Copenhagen and from 1859 at Helligåndskirken (The Church of the Holy Spirit). He was also a knowledgeable theoretician and became a popular teacher of musical theory there, and later at the newly created music conservatory in Copenhagen (from 1866-67) until 1883.

Gebauer is known as a composer particularly on account of his songs for children, which he wrote for his own children. Among them are “Hist, hvor Vejen slaar en Bugt ”(“Mother and Child”) and “Pandeben, godt det gror ”(“Frontal Bone, Grows so Well”), to words by Andersen. Several of his songs for children attracted attention because of their simple melodies and pertinent interpretation of the text. At the same time he wrote a few simple pieces for the piano and musical works of a more educational nature for children.
[ See title page of Otte Børnesange (Eight Children's Songs) here]

Gebauer wrote most of his songs between 1840 and 1850. Most of them are composed in a simple style incorporating features from the early Danish lieder. The three songs by Gebauer, Snee-Dronningen (“The Snow Queen”), Jeg er en Skandinav ”(“I am a Scandinavian”) og Barn Jesus (“The Infant Jesus”) appear at the beginning and end of his production respectively. The first represents the ballad style, the next is related to the other national songs, while the last is more along the lines of his many songs for children.

Gebauer set several of Andersen’s texts to music. Apart from the songs for children, examples include the poems “Rosenknoppen ”(“The Rose Bud”), ”De Danske og deres Konge” (“The Danes and their King”) and “Aarets Børn” (“The Children of the Year”) a musical perpetual almanac for solo with a chorus of three equal voices in which all the months have a little song. Andersen expressed his approval of the music on several occasions.




Edvard Grieg (1843-1907)

Edvard Grieg met Andersen in the course of several visits to Copenhagen between 1863 and 1865. Andersen was a well-known figure whom Grieg greatly admired. Among other things, we know that when Grieg was about to settle in Christiania after his marriage to Nina Hagerup in June 1867 he wanted to bring an edition of Andersen’s works, 12 volumes of which he already owned. It was predominantly Andersen’s poetry that appealed to Grieg, especially during his happy years in the mid-1860s.

It was typical of Grieg that he wrote music for a number of well-known authors over a period without returning to them later in life – as was also the case with Andersen. In addition to opus 5 and opus 15, Grieg’s Songs (opus 18) similarly have no fewer than six texts by Andersen, and in May 1864 he arranged Andersen’s poem “Danmark” (“Endnu er ej Danmark”) (Denmark) (“Denmark is not yet”) in a less significant composition for choir and piano (performed at a concert in May 1864 at the Casino Theatre). In addition, Grieg composed music for a few more texts by Andersen, namely “Min lille Fugl” (“Min lille Fugl, hvor flyver du”) (“My Little Bird”) (“My little bird, whither art thou flying?”), “Taaren” (“Mit Hjerte er en Himmel graa”), (“The Tear”) (“My heart is a grey sky”) and “Soldaten” (“Med dæmpede hvirvler”) (“The Soldier”) (“With subdued rolls of drums”) which were also written in the 1860s, but not published until after his death; one, however, in 1895.

In the spring of 1865 Grieg, together with the composers Rikard Nordraak, C.F.E. Hornemann, Louis Hornbeck and Gottfried Matthison-Hansen, founded a music society which they called Euterpe, whose aim was to perform young Nordic music. Andersen was then asked to write a prologue to Euterpe’s first concert. This was spoken by an actor from the Royal Theatre, Alfred Flinch, at the concert on 18th March 1865, at which Andersen was the guest of honour. Euterpe’s board sent its thanks to Andersen (23rd March 1865) “who was always ready to place his faith in the hopes of young people”, and we also know that Andersen attended several of the society’s other concerts. Finally, Andersen wrote in Grieg’s album on the composer’s departure for Italy in October 1865.

[ See original MS of Andersen’s prologue here]

[ See Euterpe’s letter of thanks to Andersen here]

Grieg and his wife also met Andersen, for example at the Royal Theatre, when they visited Copenhagen on later occasions, and the composer often refers to Andersen’s works in his letters. In May 1870 they met at the home of Martin Henriques, a Stock Exchange broker and ardent music enthusiast, when Nina Grieg sang “Hjertets Melodier” (“Melodies of the Heart”) and the song “Vandring i Skoven” (“Moonlit Forest”) (from Grieg’s opus 18) to Andersen. “It was like the cheerful warblings of a bird” he wrote. During a later stay in Copenhagen the Griegs again visited Andersen, and on the centenary of Andersen’s birth Grieg wrote to Georg Brandes that Andersen “wrote poetry for only one child, the child in himself”.

[See Edvard Grieg’s letter to Georg Brandes here]

Edvard Grieg’s songs




J.P.E. Hartmann (1805-1900)

Andersen and J.P.E. Hartmann were very close friends. They met when they were both aged 25 and formed a friendship that was to last throughout their lives.

Andersen met the young composer at the home of his close friend Commander Peter Frederik Wulff and his family in the spring of 1830. The first work they collaborated on was an opera, Ravnen (The Raven). Andersen had adapted the text and proposed that Hartmann should compose the music. At this time the composer was the organist at Garnisonskirken (the Garrison Church) and had written several works, which had also been performed.

[ See Hartmann’s entry in Andersen’s Album here]

However, the opera was not particularly well received in Copenhagen, so Andersen tried to promote it abroad. Robert Schumann, for example, reviewed it in his influential Neue Zeitschrift für Musik, but the opera was never performed outside the Danish capital. Both Andersen and Hartmann revised it between1859 and 1863, with the result that it was put on again at the Royal Theatre in the spring of 1865 – but only for a total of four performances.

Apart from this opera and a play called Mulatten (The Mulatto), Andersen and Hartmann collaborated until the mid-1840s mainly on cantatas for funerals, including those of Bertel Thorvaldsen and Frederik VI, or for birthdays. Later, in 1864, Andersen wrote a libretto for an opera, Saul (Saul) which Hartmann started setting to music, but never completed, perhaps because of his disappointment at the poor reception of the revised version of The Raven. In addition, he and Andersen collaborated on several songs, choral works and music for plays, and Andersen also wrote small introductions to some of Hartmann’s piano compositions.

On several occasions Andersen wrote verses in connection with events in the Hartmann family, and several of its members were portrayed in Andersen’s fairy tales. Andersen often visited Hartmann’s home, either for dinner or just for a chat, he was captivated by Hartmann’s wife, Emma, and he mourned her deeply when she died very young, in 1851, but he also supported Hartmann when he remarried four years later. When Andersen was abroad, Hartmann often kept him informed in his frequent letters about the musical life in Copenhagen.

The Hartmanns had met Andersen on their way to the musical festival held in Hamburg in 1841, and whenever Andersen was abroad he mentioned Hartmann’s works to the musical personalities he met, including Felix Mendelssohn, Richard Wagner and the Dutch composer Jean Verhulst. Andersen also managed to persuade Franz Liszt to stage the opera Liden Kirsten (Little Kirsten) in Weimar. Andersen was delighted when Hartmann’s music was well received, and he particularly appreciated the composer’s poetic music and national touch. Finally, the two artists sat together on the board of the Ancher Foundation, which provided financial grants to enable young artists to study abroad.

Hartmann was among the last of Andersen’s friends to visit him before he died in July 1875, and at Andersen’s funeral in Frue Kirke (the Church of Our Lady) in Copenhagen he played his own pompous funeral march that he had composed for Thorvaldsen’s funeral in 1844.

The opera Liden Kirsten (Little Kirsten)


Peter Heise (1830-1879)

Heise studied under various musicians, including the composer A.P. Berggreen, and was influenced by several prominent Danish composers of this period such as C.E.F. Weyse, Henrik Rung and perhaps especially Niels W. Gade. After matriculating in 1847 he was attached to the Students’ Choral Society as a conductor in 1854 and three years later became a music teacher and organist at Sorø Academy, a post which he held until 1865.

[ See Ole Jørgen Rawert’s pen-and-ink drawing of Sorø Academy here]

Heise began writing songs at an early stage and when only 19 composed the music for Agnetes Vuggevise (Agnete's Lullaby. He also composed the music for several of the vaudevilles written by his friends Jens Christian Hostrup and Christian Richardt, which were performed especially during the 1850s, when the lullaby melody was also given a new text.

However, there is no doubt that the romance became Heise’s hallmark. He has composed a number of fine pieces for Danish romance literature. His songs are marked by a beautifully melodious line and a clear form; in due course piano accompaniment also came to play an independent part. He often chose texts from the work of Danish writers of the first half of the 19th century, but even his contemporary friends inspired him. Towards the end of his production we find some of the finest works in Danish music such as Dyveke-sangene (The Dyveke Songs) (1879) and the opera Drot og Marsk (King and Marshall) (1878).

His best known composition of a text by Andersen is obviously Jylland mellem tvende Have (Jutland between two seas), which was written during the autumn of 1859 and printed in Illustreret Tidende on 18th March 1860, which was also the first time this Andersen poem was published.

[See Andersen’s draft of Jylland mellem tvende Have (Jutland between two Seas) here]

Heise wrote no less than four different melodies for this text before he was satisfied, and then also made a vocal arrangement with piano accompaniment as a setting for a male choir, which was published in a collection of works for men’s choirs in July 1860. Heise also set Andersen’s poem “Taaren” (“The Tear”) to music as a duet, and in the middle of the 1860s came “Ørkenens Søn” (“The Son of the Desert”) a song with piano accompaniment. Heise was so delighted with this poem that he asked Andersen to write more on the same subject for him to set to music, but the idea was not realized.

Amongst other things, Andersen saw the ballet Cort Adeler (Cort Adeler ) with Heise’s music at the Royal Theatre in 1870, and he mentions in several letters that others had expressed their admiration for the composer. He often asked Ingemann in Sorø to remember him to Heise, particularly when the composer became engaged in 1858.


Fini Henriques (1867-1940)

From his earliest years Finn Henriques was a keen violinist and studied in both Copenhagen and Berlin. In 1892 he became a member of the Royal Orchestra, but later preferred to become a free-lance musician and from the age of 30 he made a living mainly from concerts, but also as a composer and teacher. He has been described as a straightforward and humorous person, yet with an ability to impress and grip the public with his violin-playing. Among his compositions, dramatic music, chamber music and music for children have been among the most successful.

Songs for children
Fini Henriques’s collection of Børnesange (Songs for Children) opus 29 (1907) contains texts by several well-known Danish poets, but Andersen is represented only by "Danse, danse, Dukke min" (“Dance, Dance, Doll of Mine”).

Henriques was very fond of children. He wrote many works for this group, and on several occasions his own children were a useful source of inspiration. It started with a children’s book, Mellem Trolde (Between Trolls) in which the text was interspersed with little piano compositions, which were written for his eldest son in 1896. He also composed a “Børnetrio” (“Children’s Trio”) for violin, cello and piano, which can be played by quite young musicians. Finally, the collections of piano compositions include Aphorismer og Melodiske Profiler (Aphorisms and Melodious Profiles) that have been inspired by the world of children.

However, the most widely known collection is Billedbogen (Picture Book) (1899) a number of small piano compositions that have won international prizes. Among the popular titles are “Dukke-Dans” (“Dolly-Dance”) “Snurrebassen” (“Whipping Top”), “Bolden” (“The Ball”) and “Nissernes Dans” (“The Dance of the Pixies”).

[See title page of the Picture Book here]

Henriques and Hans Christian Andersen
Fini Henriques has set several of Andersen’s texts to music. The best known is probably “Det døende Barn” (“The Dying Child”) (1899), but among his four songs “Ved Vuggen” (“At the Cradle”) (opus 3) is also Agnetes Vuggevise (“Agnete’s Lullaby”) (1889). In addition, he wrote the music for the ballet Den Lille Havfrue (The Little Mermaid) based on Andersen’s fairy tale. It was the result of a collaboration between the director Julius Lehmann and the ballet master Hans Beck and had its premiere at the Royal Theatre in 1910 – a great success, especially on account of its passionate music. Later, in 1927 came the ballet Snedronningen (The Snow Queen) after Andersen’s fairy tale.

Finally, it was Henriques who wrote the Hans Christian Andersen Festival Overture, played by the Royal Orchestra on 2nd April 1905 at the Royal Theatre’s memorial celebration of the centenary of Andersen’s birth. Henriques conducted the orchestra in person when this work was played, its main theme being based on the notes B-C-A (representing Andersen’s initials, H-C-A, because the note B is called H in Danish). However, it is not one of his most prominent compositions.


Otto Lindblad (1809-1864)

Otto Lindblad was a Swedish composer and the distinguished conductor of the Students’ Choral Society at Lund University (Sweden) from the end of the 1830s. In 1847 he became a bellringer at Norra Mellby and thus left the student milieu.

Lindblad had several close connections in Copenhagen, particularly through his work with student choirs. However, he also had friends in music publishing circles and had many of his compositions published in the Danish capital.

Lindblad stood high in Andersen’s favour, in the first instance because he set Andersen’s “Jeg er en Skandinav” (“I am a Scandinavian”) to music. When Andersen visited Lund in the middle of April 1840 he was overwhelmingly acclaimed by the university students. Lindblad had a little song ready for the occasion, namely “Inpromtu till Skalden Andersen” (“Impromptu for Andersen the Bard”) for four male voices, which the Students’ Choral Society sang for him.

[See Otto Lindblad’s Inpromtu here]

Andersen later conveyed his gratitude to Lindblad by sending him his poem “Studenten fra Lund” (“The Student from Lund”), which he dedicated to Lindblad and moreover had published in Kiøbenhavns Morgenblad on 3rd May 1840. However, Lindblad never set it to music and it was not until much later that Andersen revised the poem for his friend the young Swedish composer Jakob Adolf Hägg, who used it as the basis for a larger composition for baritone, male choir and orchestra (1871).


Carl Nielsen (1865-1931)

Carl Nielsen is probably the most widely known 20th-century Danish composer. He was born on the Danish island of Funen into a poor family of workmen and country musicians, later became a military musician and in 1884–86 was given the opportunity to study at the music conservatory in Copenhagen. In 1889 he joined the Royal Orchestra as a violinist, but gradually established himself more as a composer. This resulted in six symphonies, two operas, Maskarade (Masquerade) and Saul and David, choral works, instrumental concerts, chamber music and a great number of songs. At the same time he was active in the musical life of Denmark, for example as conductor at the Royal Theatre and the Music Society, and as a teacher at the music conservatory.

In the vocal area Carl Nielsen is known in particular for his simple, strophic songs, and as a rule he used Danish texts. At the beginning of his career, however, he did write a number of songs more in the romance style with texts by writers such as J.P. Jacobsen and Ludvig Holstein. After collaborating with the composer Thomas Laub on the two collections of En Snes danske Viser (A Score of Danish Ballads) from 1915 and 1917, which proved to be epoch-making in Danish song history, Carl Nielsen mainly stuck to the simple song.

However, he only set relatively few of Andersen’s poems to music. Apart from “The Snow Queen” the second part of A Score of Danish Verses contains two other songs with texts by Andersen, namely “Min lille Fugl, hvor flyver du” (“My little bird, whither art thou flying?”) and “Hun har mig glemt” (“She has forgotten me”), which are composed in the same simple style as “The Snow Queen”. In addition, Carl Nielsen wrote “Traaden brister, Rokken staar” (“The Thread breaks, the Spinning-wheel stops”) for a collection of 60 Danish canons assembled by the composers Finn Høffding and Hakon Andersen; this was published in 1930 and intended partly for educational purposes.

Finally, Carl Nielsen also composed a romance that was associated with Andersen, namely “Italiensk Hyrdearie” (“Italian Pastoral aria”), opus 54. It was included in the festival play Amor og Digteren (Cupid and the Poet), the text of which was written by Sophus Michaëlis and performed at Odense Theatre on 12th August 1930 to mark the 125th anniversary of Andersen’s birth. The scene is meant to represent a hotel room in Berlin in 1845 where Andersen hears Jenny Lind sing an aria to an Italian text by Guido Cavalcanti set to music by Carl Nielsen.

Carl Nielsen outside his childhood home in Nørre Lyndelse, south of Odense. Photo: Odense Bys Museer

[See larger picture here]

It seems only natural to compare Carl Nielsen and Hans Christian Andersen, both of whom came from the island of Funen and from humble backgrounds, but also became world-famous Danes. Carl Nielsen’s mother was one of the first to note the parallel – even before she could know about her son’s future career. Carl Nielsen related in his memoirs how he spoke to his mother when he had decided to study to become a free-lance musician. His mother’s reaction was that he should work hard and develop “and then she also said something about Hans Christian Andersen, who had been just as wretched as me”. She certainly had ambitions on her son’s behalf. The comparison followed him, and when the historian Vilhelm Andersen was to make a speech on the composer’s 60th birthday, his theme was therefore the three great Funen islanders: Hans Christian Andersen, the philologist Rasmus Rask and Carl Nielsen.


Leopold Rosenfeld (1849-1909)

Leopold Rosenfeld is probably best known as a composer of songs, a field in which he contributed to the romantically influenced romance literature in a simple form, but he also wrote compositions for choir, a little chamber music and orchestral works.

He had greater influence in the musical life of the day as a critic, for the newspaper Dannebrog, for example, and for several periodicals. He was morever much in demand as a singing teacher, displaying particular interest in the articulation of the texts of songs. He was also deeply engaged in organizational work.

His only arrangement of an Andersen text is “Danse, danse, Dukke min” (“Dance, Dance, Doll of Mine”) which he wrote in 1904.


Henrik Rung (1807-1871)

Henrik Rung was employed in the Royal Orchestra as a contrabassist, but was also a competent guitarist. He studied the theory of music and his composition “Svend Dyrings Hus” (“Svend Dyring’s House”), first performed in 1837, proved to be his breakthrough. Shortly after he left on a study tour to Rome, where he stayed for three years studying the art of singing and classical sixteenth-century choral polyphony with great interest. In 1840 he was back in Denmark and two years later was appointed choirmaster at the Royal Theatre, for which he also wrote the music for a number of plays and several operas.

Henrik Rung set several of Andersen’s poems to music. One of the best known is probably the romance “Gurre” (“Hvor Nilen vander Ægypternes Jord”) (“Gurre”) (“Where the Nile waters the Land of the Egyptians”) which is a small lyrical scene for solo and choir. It was first performed at a concert in 1841 by the distinguished baritone Christian Hansen [see portrait here] and the following year a charity performance was given with a very small “Aftenprospekt” (“Evening Scene”) of the song arranged by the ballet master August Bournonville, again with Christian Hansen as the soloist complemented by several singers from the opera choir. It was a great success and was moreover published that same year and several times later.

In addition, Rung wrote the music for several of Andersen’s dramatic texts, including the fairy tale comedy Lykkens Blomst (The Flower of Fortune) which with August Bournonville’s dances was performed at the Royal Theatre in February 1845. It was actually well received, but afterwards severely criticized in several newspapers and closed after only six performances.

Finally, Rung also asked Andersen for a libretto that would enable him to introduce touches of Swedish folk music, by all means actually set in Sweden. Folk songs and the folk song style were very typical of Rung’s vocal works. Andersen and the composer worked together on the libretto, and the result was Nøkken (The Water Spirit), which was submitted to the Royal Theatre as a libretto in one act in March 1845. But the theatre director Johan Ludvig Heiberg was – as so often before – not very keen on it. However, it was accepted, and during the summer of 1845 Rung worked on the music.

Andersen was on his way to Berlin at this time, and he wrote to Edvard Collin in December 1845, wondering how the composition was getting on. Collin replied that Rung had withdrawn from the project. The composer had called on Collin in November and handed over the Water Spirit libretto, because his opera Aagerkarl og Sanger (The Money-Lender and the Singer) had been a failure and he had no wish to write any more for the theatre. After several other attempts, the future conductor of the Royal Chapel Franz Gläser finally set the libretto to music. It had its premiere in February 1853, but only ran for seven performances.


Poul Schierbeck (1888-1949)

Poul Schierbeck learned to play the organ and at the same time taught composition and instrumentation at the Royal Danish Conservatoire in Copenhagen. His most significant musical production is in the vocal area, especially in the form of songs, but also comprises cantatas and an opera. Schierbeck was much inspired by both Carl Nielsen and Thomas Laub’s work on folk songs.

I Danmark er jeg født (“In Denmark I was born”) became Schierbeck’s best known melody. He only wrote two other songs to texts by Andersen. In 1942, during the German occupation of Denmark, Schierbeck composed two songs at the instigation of Leonie Watt-Boolsen, who sang in the femalle choir Echo, which Schierbeck conducted. She had found two of Andersen’s very patriotic poems, “Forvisning” (“Banishment”) (“Endnu er ej Danmark en Kæmpegrav”) (“Denmark is not yet a Giants’ Barrow”), first published in Dagbladet in April 1864 and “For Danmark” (“Der er en stor, alvorlig Tid”) (“For Denmark”) (“It is a Momentous and Solemn Time”) first published in the newspaper Fædrelandet in March 1848).

Schierbeck set these to music, both for a singing voice with piano accompaniment, for a mixed choir and for a male choir under the title “Two forgotten, but new patriotic songs”, and that same year they were published by Wilhelm Hansen as the composer’s opus 58. However, the poems included vehement statements such as “I natten lyser nu stjerneskud af unge hjerter, som brister” (“Shooting Stars of young Hearts that are breaking now shine in the Night ”) and “Vi strider jo den gode Strid for Danmark” (“We are fighting the Good Fight for Denmark”), with the result that the Germans prohibited the singing of these songs.

[See title page here]

Schierbeck has furthermore written orchestral music for Andersen’s fairy tale “The Tinder-Box”. It was intended as a form of background music for a reading which was presented for the first time on the radio at an Evening Folk Concert on 29th September 1942 with Mogens Wieth as the reader and Launy Grøndahl as conductor. Later it was published in a version for piano arranged by the organist Edwin Nielsen.

[See title page of piano version here]


Robert Schumann (1810-1856)

Andersen often came into contact with the great composers of the day when he was travelling abroad. Sometimes he called on them of his own accord, as was the case with Mendelssohn in Leipzig, who was already familiar with Andersen’s works. On other occasions he was introduced by his friends. Such meetings were often immortalized in written greetings from the artists in each other’s albums – poems from Andersen and little pieces of music from the composers.

[ See Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy’s entry in Andersen’s Album here]

Already in the course of his journey in the summer of 1841 Andersen had tried to contact Schumann in Leipzig, but unfortunately without luck. So it was through Clara Schumann that Andersen got to know her husband. Clara Schumann was a pianist and in April 1842 gave concerts, for example at the Music Society and at the Hotel d’Angleterre in Copenhagen. Andersen attended several of her concerts and also met her at dinner parties. She wrote very amusingly about Andersen that “...he is the ugliest man alive, yet he looks very takes a little while to get used to his manner; generally speaking he is a brilliant person”. In return, Andersen wrote to Robert Schumann that Clara had visited Copenhagen “and flung a bouquet of musical notes into all our hearts”.

[See Clara Schumann’s insert in Andersen’s Album here]

At this time Robert Schumann was already aware of Andersen’s existence and works – especially his novels The Improvisatore and Only a Fiddler!. Already during the summer of 1840 Schumann had written music for four of Andersen’s poems in his collection opus 40, which on publication he dedicated to Andersen. He wrote to Andersen in October 1842 to say that he hoped the author would like the songs that had inspired him to compose such music for them, which at first glance might appear a little unusual, because “für Andersensche Gedichte muss man anders komponieren als “blühe liebes Veilchen” (“bloom, sweet violet”). Andersen thanked him warmly for the music, which he had got his good friends J.P.E Hartmann and Niels W. Gade to play for him.

Andersen visited the Schumanns in July 1844 when he passed through Leipzig and spent an evening in their company. On this occasion one of the couple’s friends, the singer Livia Frege, sang the four songs to the accompaniment of Clara Schumann. The visit inspired Schumann to ask Andersen for a synopsis of his fairy tale comedy Lykkens Blomst (The Flower of Fortune) with the aim of creating a dramatic musical work. But Andersen never got around to sending the synopsis, and shortly after, Schumann became too ill to compose for a while. However, he wrote most cheerfully to Andersen in April 1845 about the project in the hope that Andersen would visit him again.

We have no knowledge of any further correspondence between them, nor of any other visits. The composer’s arrangement of Barn Jesus i en Krybbe laa (“The Infant Jesus Lay in his Crib”) which was composed in the spring of 1849 and published that same year in Liederalbum für die Jugend (Lieder Album for Young People) op. 79/2 was probably the end of their connection. However, Andersen did keep in touch with Clara Schumann, whom he visited and heard at concerts on several occasions, the last time in 1863.

[See portrait of Clara Schumann here]


Portræt af Robert Schumann. Litografi af Josef Kriehuber, 1839

Sebastian (Knud Christensen, f. 1949)

Sebastian is a singer, musician and composer who since his breakthrough in 1972 has written a great many songs as well as music for musicals and films in the Danish tradition that have become extremely popular. He has contributed to the expansion of Danish rock’s tonal universe, not only in his recordings, musical works and live performances, but at the same time he has also created both catchy tunes and colloquial texts. Since the middle of the 1980s he has worked on a number of dramatic works, some of which have also become popular abroad.

In 1980, in collaboration with the theatre manager Preben Harris, Sebastian set a dramatic adaptation of Andersen’s “Nattergalen” (“The Nightingale”) to music, and in 1989 he was commissioned by the Royal Theatre to compose the music for a ballet based on Andersen’s fairy tale “Dyndkongens Datter” (“The Marsh King’s Daughter”), but it was never performed at this theatre. Finally, in 1996, he wrote the music for a whole musical about Andersen’s life, Hans Christian Andersen, which was produced at Gladsaxe Theatre in Copenhagen. The author was the theatre’s manager, Flemming Enevold, and the text introduced several of Andersen’s fairy tale figures. For this musical Sebastian wrote new melodies for a number of well-known songs, including I Danmark er jeg født (“In Denmark I was born”).

In the course of 2005, Andersen’s bi-centenary year, Sebastian will be composing music for Andersen’s romantic drama Mulatten (The Mulatto) (1840), which will open on 6th December 2005.


C.E.F. Weyse (1774-1842)

C.E.F. Weyse was born in Altona, Germany, and was given his first music lessons by his grandfather. After a very short apprenticeship to a grocer he succeeded in devoting himself to music, thanks in particular to support from Professor C.F. Cramer of Kiel, who arranged to have Weyse sent to his good friend, the conductor and composer J.A.P. Schulz in Copenhagen. Schulz gave Weyse a thorough basic training, a home during his first three years in the Danish capital, and an introduction to the cultural life of Copenhagen.

Weyse became an organist at Den Reformerte Kirke (the Reformed Church) and later at Vor Frue Kirke (the Church of Our Lady), taught singing and was very productive as a composer. Among his works we find seven symphonies, a number of lyrical dramas, music for plays, more than 30 cantatas and many piano compositions. He was very prominent in the history of Danish singing on account of his many fine romances and songs. He gradually acquired a position in the musical life of Copenhagen as the great master who was both a titular professor and a composer to the Danish Court. He was therefore a respected guest in many culturally interested bourgeois homes, where he entertained with his fabulous ability to improvise on the piano.

Andersen met Weyse shortly after his arrival in Copenhagen in 1819, because he approached the Royal Theatre’s choirmaster, Giuseppe Siboni, to hear what he thought of his voice. Siboni had invited some people for dinner, including Weyse, who took a liking to the impoverished boy, and collected some money so that he could be given a monthly sum. Weyse also subscribed to Andersen’s first publication, Ungdoms-Forsøg (Youthful Attempts) in 1822. One may suppose that Weyse saw a parallel in Andersen to his own arrival in the Danish capital, which Andersen was to mention later in Mit Livs Eventyr (The Fairy Tale of My Life).

In the 1830s, Weyse and Andersen often met for dinner on Fridays at the home of Commander Wulff at the Naval Cadet Academy, where they were both most welcome guests together with other cultural personalities. They might also meet at the home of the Rahbeks in Bakkehuset. Even so, Andersen writes in The Fairy Tale of My Life that although they worked together on the lyrical drama Festen paa Kenilworth (The Kenilworth Festival) they never became “...very close friends, his life was lonely, like mine, and yet I think people liked to see him, as I believe many people like to see me”.

[ See Weyse’s entry in Andersen’s Album here]

Nevertheless, Weyse asked Andersen to take the piano excerpts from his Ambrosianske Lovsang (Ambrosian Song of Praise) to the composer Luigi Cherubini when he visited Paris in 1833. Andersen wrote of his encounter with the Italian composer “...he had never heard of Weyse, not even his name, and asked me to say something about the music I had brought with me..... Weyse never heard from Cherubini, and I did not see him again”. On this same journey he met the composer Ludvig Spohr, who knew Weyse well, and later Andersen was also to convey the composer Franz Lachner’s greetings to Weyse when he visited Munich in November–December 1840.

It was only Andersen’s text for The Kenilworth Festival that Weyse set to music. Despite their somewhat arduous collaboration, Andersen nevertheless continued to admire the composer and wrote several poems for his birthdays and jubilees “Et Folk, det er en Søe med stærker Bølger” (“A Nation is like a Sea with pounding Waves”), “Naar Barnet fik den christne Daab” (“When the Child received the Christian Baptism”) and for Weyse's funeral in 1842 “Hans trætte Støv er bragt til Gravens Ro” (“His weary Dust has been brought to the Peace of the Grave”).

[ See title page of the Music Society’s Memorial Festival for C.E.F. Weyse, 24th January 1843, here]


        © Det Kongelige Bibliotek 2004

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