The earliest known written example of the music of Danish medieval ballads is contained in a manuscript copy in runic letters with “choral notes” in the Scania Laws
, dating from about 1300
. With this fragment of a melody begins the history of Danish music. From the end of the 16th century we have a ballad called “It was Oluf Strangeson”; and from 1646 the melody of the song “The raven flies at even-tide” deriving from the Latin work “Heptachordum Danicum” of the Rector of Slagelse Hans Mikkelse.
These are the only original relics of Danish musical culture from the Middle Ages. The medieval ballads were monophonic and purely vocal.
From then, the old melodies altered gradually and imperceptibly under the influence of changing melodic conceptions.
The collection “Selected Danish Songs from the Middle Ages”, in five volumes, by Nyerup and Rahbek, are useful as a basis for research in recent times.
The Danish composer C.E.F. Weyse (1774-1842), took a profound interest in the old melodies provided in this collection. Thomas Laub (1852-1927), organist of Holmen’s church in Copenhagen, was struck by the similarity between the traditional tunes of the ballads and Gregorian melodies.
(1865-1931). Denmark’s greatest composer. Characteristic of Nielsen was a strong expansive urge. He got in close touch with the Grundtvig movement, which combined love of our Nordic history with cheerful Christianity. He showed a fresh virality free from any attempts at profound expression or sentimental pessimism. Something new and original is discernible—a tendency to linear and dynamic movements. It was later that he introduced polytonality and modern rhythms. He learnt from Brahms the variety of double and triple rhythms. HAKON BØRRESEN
(b. 1876). PEDER GRAM
(b. 1881) has a cool Nordic mentality, a Nordic-coloured polyphony. Gram became a counterpoint composer. French music from about 1930 distinctly influenced his structures; at the same time the Nordic note is maintained. KNUD JEPPESEN
(b. 1892) is an investigator of musical style and a fine composer. “The Palestrina Style and the Dissonance” was the starting point of his intensive researches into the vocal polyphonic style of the XVI century, using Guido Adler’s new scientific principles. His tonal language is Nordic in the sense of Carl Nielsen’s. Since 1946, Jeppesen has been a professor of musicology at the University of Aarhus. KNUDÅGE RIISAGER
(b. 1897) is a true Dane. A strong sense of logic, together with a sensibility, made him an artist. He simultaneously uses polytonality, polyrhythmic, and very characteristic syncopations. His harmonies are rather “tight”; his piano sonata (1931) through degrees of seconds. He composed popular tunes, among others, the Danish Song of Liberty, which during the last days of the German occupation became the triumphal hymn of the Resistance. JØRGEN BENTZON
1897) struggled with elements of contemporary German music. “A Symhpnic Trio”
is composed for three sound groups
. His “Racconti”, compositions for three to five instruments, progressing in a polyphony never using imitation, but with melodies each of which is individual in line (“character polyphony”), utilizing the special character of the instrument in question. Their formal course is quite free. This gives them an epic, narrative character. EBBE HAMMERIK
(b. 1898). His works have, coupled with a fine lyric line, a great form variety, from great polyphonous forms after almost baroque patterns to burlesques of popular forms such as the waltz and the foxtrot. FLEMMING WEIS
(b. 1898) broke with Romanticism. He gave attention to modern French composers. But his compositions feels to be Danish, has a graceful form, is well-balanced, has a certain cool deportment, humoristic and with the stamp of old culture. FINN HØFFDING
s (b. 1899) music is a testimony to the fact that it is possible to write music which is felt to be Danish and Nordic throughout. He has often a slow but healthy development, but with an increasingly marked influence of contemporary tendencies to make rhythm the basic element of the composition. He was active in improving the standard of music teaching. HERMANN D. KOPPEL
(b. 1908), primarily a pianist, has a starting point in Carl Nielsen. He then adds the rhythm as a motif-forming factor, as in Stravinsky. Koppel is fond of working with small rhythmical intervals and thematic groups. A certain severity, softened through a lyrical spirit, characterized for a while his style. SVEND ERIK TARP
(b. 1908) have a light and elegant character. VAGN HOLMBOE
( b. 1909). Balkan folk-music can be traced in his music. He seeks back to the simple, turns away from late-Romanticism’s vicious circle of cadenzas forward to a new harmonic basis. His characteristics—the stubbornness, the willed character of his linearity, to work in large blocks, to base tone-language on ostinati
, has acquired a wonderful suppleness. SVEND S. SCHULTZ
(b. 1913) tends towards late French impressionism. Alight optimism, a health musical joy, characterizes his orchestral works. NIELS VIGGO BENTZON
(b. 1919), a pianist. He found his starting point with Bartok and Hindemith and writes in a expressive new-romantic style.