Friday, September 25, 2009

Johan Svendsen

Johan Svendsen (Johan Severin Svendsen) was a Norwegian violinist, conductor, and composer, born on September 30, 1840 (Brahms was 7 years old.) He was very popular and successful in his day. Svendsen first studied with his father (what else is new?) and was working as an orchestral musician by the time he finished his secondary school education. At that time, he also undertook occasional tours as a violinist. A wealthy patron who heard him on one of these tours, financed further study for him at the Leipzig Conservatory from 1863 until 1867. There, he studied with the famous violinist Ferdinand David and the composer Reinecke. After turning his almost undivided attention to conducting, he worked in England, Germany, France, Italy, Switzerland, and Norway. Eventually, he was engaged as the Theatre conductor in Copenhagen, Denmark, on or about the year 1871. He was barely 31 years old. There he stayed until his death. His most famous composition (which is seldom heard nowadays) is his Romance for Violin from 1881. He was popular as a composer almost from the start, having achieved recognition with his very first composition - the string quartet from 1865. He composed three symphonies, a violin concerto, a ballet, and an assortment of chamber music. It is said that the original score to his third symphony was destroyed in a fire before having been published. It has therefore never been heard by anyone other than Svendsen. I have never heard anything of his aside from the Romance for Violin. Svendsen died on June 14, 1911, at age 70  (Richard Strauss was 47 years old, Igor Stravinsky was 29, and Jascha Heifetz was 10.) 

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