WorldView Episode 06: Agathe Grøndahl & Carl Nielsen

Episode six of WorldView features two composers from Scandinavia: Agathe Grøndahl (Norway) and Carl Nielsen (Denmark). In just under one hundred years, the two wrote more than 120 combined opus works, 6 symphonies, and hundreds of shorter pieces for a variety of instruments. Both have become icons of classical music in their countries. 

Agathe Grøndahl (1847-1907) was born in Holmestrand, Norway, to a well-off and artistic family. She was the youngest of four sisters, all of whom pursued visual art and music in their youth. Grøndahl debuted as a concert pianist at the age of 21 with the Royal Philharmonic Society, conducted by a young Edvard Grieg. In the second half of her life she had considerable success as a performer, both in the Nordic countries and in major Western European cities. She was forced to retire from public performances in 1901—as she had become almost totally deaf—and began rapidly composing and teaching.  Grøndahl’s style began similar to that of Western European Romantic artists, but slowly evolved to include characteristics of early Modern music. Despite her formidable performance career, Grøndahl is primarily remembered for her compositions. This episode of WorldView features her instrumentation of the poem Mot Kveld.

Carl Nielsen, though now much more widely known than Grøndahl, achieved much of his success posthumously. Nielsen was born on an island off of Denmark in 1865 to relatively poor but musically talented parents, and began composing around age eight. He was skilled in both violin and piano, but learned several brass instruments in order to play in the military band of the Danish 16th Battalion in Odense. When he was 19, Nielsen left the army and began composing. In 1916, he started teaching at the Royal Danish Academy and taught there until his death in 1931. Much of his music was influenced by difficulties in his personal life, including a rough marriage to a Danish sculptor. Now, his six symphonies have become internationally known, made famous in part by their performance by Leonard Bernstein. This episode features Concerto for Flute and Orchestra, written in 1926. 

WorldView Episode Six Playlist:

Walter PISTON, “Symphony No. 6”, {Seattle Symphony, Gerard Schwarz (cond)} – Delos 

Agathe GRONDAHL, “Mot Kveld (Eventide), Op. 42”, {Kirsten Flagstad, Edwin McArthur (pn)} – Daco CD 

Carl NIELSEN, “Concerto for Flute and Orchestra”, {Gothenburg Symphony Orch, Myung-Wung Chun (cond), Patrick Gallois (fl)}  – BIS 

John FIELD, “Nocturne No. 14 in C Major”, {Benjamin Frith} – Naxos

WorldView is a classical music radio show featuring composers from everywhere in the world – except Western Europe. Tune in to hear works by lesser-known artists such as Gabriela Montero  and Bright Sheng, and widen your knowledge of classical music. Hinke Younger hosts each week’s episode of WorldView on Mondays at 9AM and again at 6PM on Charlottesvilleclassical.org.

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