The Guitar, an exotic instrument in Danish Music
a Synopsis in English
In 1997 I published this book on Danish guitar history until 1960, titled "Guitaren, et Eksotisk Instrument i Den Danske Musik". (The Guitar, an exotic Instrument in Danish Music) My book is inspired by the constantly growing interest and research in guitar history, both in Denmark and certainly abroad - the modern practice of publishing forgotten or neglected music found unplayed sometimes for centuries in libraries, increased consciousness about forgotten guitar-figures, and serious discussions about style and sound in connection with musical performance of old music. In this article I try to run a kind of synopsis over the content of the book`s 279 pages.
Denmark is not placed in the heart of what we normally understand as "guitarcountries". A small cold (in winter at least) country in Scandinavia nabouring Germany, Norway and Sweden, away from passionate and dramatic folk-characters of Spain or Italy, the guitars more or less truly native countries. So one would think that its guitar history cannot have much to declare.
Yet, during the many years, that I`ve slowly collected more and more Danish guitar-material and informations, I realized that there is a lot more guitar history in Denmark than one normally would be aware of. The instrument seems, with historical eyes, "exotic" in Denmark at first sight, but actually it was played by almost everyone from high to the low. Kings, Queens, students, writers, jugglers, actors, priests, painters, poets and you name it...
In 21 chapters I deal with the subject from ancient times up to 1960, where I myself became a part of the history and therefore hardly think I should be the one to write that story from there.
A CD with 80 minutes selected, never-heard-before music, by some of the leading profiles in the book are inlayed, played by myself, together with some of the best instrumentalists and singers in Denmark. On the last pages is an, almost complete, catalogue on printed Danish music with guitar of the actual period in print.
The first traceable renderings about stringed instruments far back in history, and also the early guitar pictures in the churches. They often show angels or King David playing a lute or a vihuela-like instrument. The instruments in the hands of such angels symbolizing the cross or the human and divine nature of Christ.
"Guitar"-playing angel from Rynkeby Church, Denmark
Unfortunately, much of our knowlegde about music in Denmark has been lost in in some huge castle-fires, therefore the informations on the lute and guitar life as well as the "normal" music-life is rather limited. The lute made its entry into the royal orchestra as early as in mid 1550s¸ however plucked instruments were without doubt in use further back in Scandinavian history. Especially under King Christian IV the culturel and music life blossomed. During that time famous personalities such as John Dowland and other important english lutenists was employed in the Kings chapel where they received extremely high payments. Dowland´s the Second Booke of Songs or Ayres with the famous Lachrimae Pavan and The third and Last Booke of Songs or Ayres were created and published during his stay in denmark.
Is about the guitar of the baroque era. It is not until the baroque period and even quite late that one could speak of a genuinly Danish guitar literature. At the Royal Library in Copenhagen we find one of the world`s largest collections of baroque guitar manuscripts, 950 pages, from the 1740s. It was collected by the sister of King Christian VI, Princess Charlotte Amalie. Guitar playing was highly in fashion at court and we know of several members of the royal family who played the guitar or other similar string instruments. The two important names in the collection is "Guitarmaster" Johann Friederich Fibiger and Nathanael Diesel. They were both employed as guitar-teachers and chamber music partners to the princess, and the music in the collection was intended for that kind of use. Her father, Frederik the IV was a keen lute-player as well. Some said about him that his instrument, the Angelica, "was adequate with his erotic temperament".
In the book You will find a complete register over this remarcable, quite unresearched, collection. The music differs in quality between the quite primitive to the splendid, both arrangements and original compositions written in both tablature and conventional notation. Music intended to be played on the baroque Guitar, works by the gratest masters such as Telemann and Schickhardt is found here in fine "contemporary" arrangements, ready to take in to our days repertoire again! Some interesting lute-manuscripts written by Danish musiciens was found in Swedish libraries. Of special interest is a row of dance-pieces alledgedly by "The Danish Lutenist Daniel Holstz", but actually some of them actually written by Gaultier!
Baroque Guitar by the courts favourite luthier Joachim Tielke in the Rosenborg Castle in Copenhagen
Princess Charlotte Amalie
The guitar among the court-violons and the composer Peder Schall (1762-1820). Some of Schalls simple, but charming guitar pieces, found at The Royal Library in Copenhagen, can be heard on the CD. The music, however, seems historically important, because the pieces are written in such a stage of the guitars history. The story about Peder Schall, who also played both the harp and the cello, is also a testimony of a praxis among the musicians in the Royal Chapel at the time: Playing the guitar, and even compose for it, alongside their obligations in the orchestra. Peder´s brother, Claus Schall was a well known composer and conductor. Together they visited Paris as early as in 1789 - the year of the French revolution. During their travel home they visited Prague where they probably met Mozart. I consider Peder Schall as one of the very first anes, or Scandinavians, who used the six-stringed guitar. He might have brought one of these new instruments back with him from Paris.
about the master of the guitar-romance, Rudolph Bay (1791-1866). The great Danish composer Niels W. Gade wrote in his memoirs about the very popular guitar-fashion around the early 1800s: "Gentlemen and ladies sung sentimental romances by Rudolph Bay and others to the accompagniment of the guitar which was hanging in a blue ribbon over their shoulders". Bay was a keen composer of these somewhat naive ballads. Many of his songs, which were contemporary published, is however of a fine quality and bears inspirations from the composers many travels to exotic places as he vividly and with much humour had described in 3 very popular books. Here You can also learn about the guitar as a kind of a social phenomen, a travellers companion, and an instrument for more spectacular activities. Other composers, well known in the cultural life at the time such as Rung, Berggreen, Krossing, Hallager, Du Puy, Bøgh and Heiberg also wrote beautifull songs in the sentimental style and a lot of their songs was also contemporarily published.
Frederik Carl Lemming (1782-1846), an overseen guitar virtuoso and adventurer. A legendary figure in the history of the guitar. Lemming was born near the sea, and through his life he had an uneasy and restless character, and already as a young man he travelled Europe. He probably learnt guitar playing in Italy or Spain. In 1805 he settled in South Africa, where he became a leading figure in the musical life there. Later he travelled to Rio de Janeiro where he for a period were employed as a conductor. In february 1818 he returned to Denmark and gave a concert at the Royal Theatre. King Frederik VI was so enthusiastic with the young virtuo`s musicianship (on the guitar among other instruments!) that he appointed him Royal Chamber Musician, a really hounorable title, only without any salary!! He toured in Scandinavia, mostly in Norway, and published several works, solos and chamber music for different instruments, among them a "grande phantasy" for the guitar, which can be heard on the CD. In a period he was a kind of teacher for a very young Ole Bull (norwegian violin virtuose of world fame). Contemporary reviewers praised his incredible tecnique on both violin and the guitar and called him "an original of first rate", probably also because of his bohemian way of life. I have been in contact with decendants to him and in the family-mythologi he is considered as a "Hippie of the 19th century". I consider him as the only real great danish guitar virtuoso of extraordinary ability before Henrik Rung. Listen to his Guitar-phantasy, You will be impressed!
Frederik Carl Lemming as a young dandy
The Pettolettis, an Italian guitar family in Denmark. In the beginning of the 1800s a large amount of travelling opera and pantomime societies visited Denmark. Among them the Pettoletti family. Carlo Pettolettis two sons Joachim and Pietro, both virtuosos on the guitar, toured and performed as a violin and guitar duo. Joachim leaned later on more to the violin and it is Pietro (Pierre) who is most well known to posterity as a guitarist. He has published a large amount of fine quality works for the guitar. You can not claim the Pettolettis to be Danish, but they lived in Denmark in their youth and the families decendants still live here to this day. Both Pietro and Joachim later on moved to Sct. Petersburg in Russia where they earned their living as music teachers and worked at the Italian opera. Her You can e see a translation (in Danish!) of an interesting article about Pettoletti, published by Valerian Rusanov in the russian magazine "Guitarist" 1905, the most important source on the guitarist P. Pettolettis life. He, Pietro Pettoletti, died at a high age in the 1870`s.
The guitar on the streets, among travelling Gipsyes, and the people on the societys more shadowy sides. The guitar in the amusement parks of Copenhagen is a colorfull and exiting story. The tales of personalities as "Ferdinand from Tirol" - a wonderful drawing picturing him, can be seen on the cover of the book - or the old Jew Levin, who for 50 years had his place with his plucked instruments under his tree in "Dyrhavsbakken", an amusement park little outside Copenhagen, second to, but at least as popular - maybe even more - than the famous "Tivoli"of Copenhagen.
The celebrated author of several Danish national plays, in a period a famous principal at the Royal Theatre in Copenhagen, and one of the most important cultural personalities of Danish "Golden Age", Johan Ludvig Heiberg, and his life with the guitar in Paris. I the 1820s he visited his "exiled" father there. He studied with "an exellent virtuoso" maybe Carulli or another of the many Italian guitar figures who lived in the guitar-capitol at the time. In a period he even tried, not without minor succes, to earn his living as a "guitar-professor". He published a work for guitar, which later on he called a " humiliating recollection". One can only agree with him: It is not a good piece. But its there!
Henrik Rung (1807-1871) is probably the most important guitar composer in the 1800s. He learnt, mostly by himself, to master the instrument with virtuosity at an early age, and later in life he was able to use his knowledge of guitar playing to grow in the higher musical circles, becoming for example, a double bass player in the Royal Chapel. He had some succes as a composer of the so called "singspiele" and was able to travel abroad . He spent some time in Rome studying the italian church music especially Palestrina. Rung`s guitar playing and fine voice made him very popular among the other Scandinavian artists who were studying or working in the pope`s city. Rung continued to play the guitar after he returned to Denmark and was appointed chorus-master at the Royal Theatre - but only in private. For such home-music-making he composed a large number of compositions which to-day are available from the Royal Library in Copenhagen. His compositions for solo guitar, some large scale polonaises and other virtuosic solos as well as many easier pieces. His guitar music is of a splendid quality, high above the average level of guitar compositions of his time and country.
His son Frederik Rung (1854-1914) also was a keen guitarist and guitar composer, drawn to music at a very early age. He played the instrument and composed for it all of his life alongside his position as conductor and leading music autorithy. Of special interest for guitarists to day is his small pieces in the collection "Albumsblade", published in 1898. Some of these pieces can be heard on the CD.
Frederik Rung with his Harp-guitar
Andreas Peter Berggreen, Student guitarist and romance composer (1801-1880). He was a well known figure in Danish music history, although not specifically for his reputation as a guitarist. He is remembered more for having written some of the most popular Danish anthems. As a student he brought his guitar to the college "Regensen" in Copenhagen where he with his instrument became a leading figure in the college`s very intense musical life. He has written many songs and published in 1825 3 beautiful guitar solos which shows him as a guitar composer of interesting quality. One of his guitar variations is on the CD.
Guitar periodicals in the 19. century The growing interest for the guitar throughout Europe during the early 1800s was also evident in the Danish musical world. This is clear from the surprisingly great output of printed guitar music which was published during the first half of the 1800s. An enormous quantity of songs with guitar accompagniment, of course, but also many works for guitar solo, and chamber works.
Søffren Degen has been called "The enigmatic guitar genius of Denmark". Many details of his life remains unknown mysteries, but it seems that he was a celebrated guitar virtuoso who frequently gave public concerts, who taught the guitar and composed many works for it, solo and chamber works mainly for guitar and cello, an instrument he himself played beside the guitar. Degen was a friend and pupil of Napoleon Coste. The book are publishing, for the first time, two letters from Coste to Degen where the master are expressing his feeling of loneliness and sorrow, mainly because he have the problem of having damaged his arm, and maybe for that reason is fired from his modest underpaid job in an office. These letters give a true expression of the life conditions for a guitarist in his age. Sometimes when visiting Coste in Paris the two would perform as a duo. Degen wrote second guitar parts to many af the masters great guitar solos. The Danish virtuoso tried all his life to make a living of his guitar playng. He even constructed a "new" guitar model inspired by Coste and Lacote, but he instruments declining popularity brought him not the success he might have been dreaming about. To compensate he various times worked as an actor, cellist in theatre orchestras, and he also was one of the first photographers in Denmark.
Søffren Degen with his seven stringed guitar
The Gade-brothers, the two leading guitarbuilders of their time, both with a substantial output. Also about the most international famous Danish composer Niels W. Gade (1817-1890) and his almost mytological role as a guitar player when very young. He was the son of Søren Nielsen Gade (1790-1875). Jens Nielsen Gade (1788-1854), Søren`s brother was probably the most skilled of the two regarding guitar-building. Their instruments are still to be admired to day. There are discussions about some of their guitar`s provenance. Did they buy instruments in France and sold them as their own?
Danish guitarbuilders 1770-1850 - not included the brothers Gade. Here I mention Peder Stochholm (1843-1921) as a kind of ancestor to the Danish guitarbuilders of our age. He became very popular among guitarists and especially among guitar-singers, because of his so-called Stochholm-guitar/lute, which was a kind of a normal tuned guitar formed as a lute from old times. Some called it a Swedish lute, not to be confused with the cister-like instrument that Carl Michael Bellmann played. One of Stochholm`s pupils, the legendary Johannes Møller, was a kind of teachers for later figures such as Arne Schlünsen, Yngve Barslev, both active in 1900s.
The guitar in Århus, the second largest city in Denmark. A history of the guitar in Denmark would not be complete if it was focusing only on Copenhagen. The guitars history in a smaller provincial (at that time) town, shows a caleidoscope of strange and dedicated personalities. Spectacular concerts with H.Paulson (1824) and Mr. Zella, Sologuitarist from Naples (1844), was big successes. Many dedicated music teachers and somewhat strange personalities, such as Knud Schytte, father to the famous pianist and composer Ludvig Schytte and his brother, Henrik Wissing Schytte (1827-1903) who became a profilic amateur guitarist, highly praised by Thorvald Rischel who heard and described his guitar playing. He became the first publisher of a music-encyclopedia in Denmark. Århus had even a guitar builder, Arnold Theophilus Müllertz.
Adolph Julius Eggers. Cantor and guitarist. Eggers was another of the Danish music personalities who were hopelessly in love with the guitar. Unfortunately, even he was a properly educated composer, he did not write any compositions for the guitar, but however created an enormous amount of wonderful guitar accompaniments of songs by the greatest composers, Danish and foreign. These are arrangements which are still in use today. A real treasure for every guitarist and singer to explore, believe me!
The "mandolin-guitarists". I choose to call them so, because these "plectralists" both played in the very many mandolin-orchestras, but also were outstandingly active in the more refined classical guitar circles. To-day these cultural aspects, which were also a part of the "Socialdemocrat`s" cultural policy, still lives, but now sad enough only in Copenhagen. Names such as Laurids Kragelund, Albert Petersen, August Etlinger, Achton Friis and many others tells a charming story about a culture now in danger of being lost. Some of them alongside their involvement in the orchestras, also published educational works for both mandolin and the guitar, arranged for the instruments and even composed small pieces and song accompaniments. A figure like Alberto Bracony who originally came from Italy enjoyed great popularity as a player of both mandolin and the guitar. He was historically important because of his teaching activities which inspired many young people to take up the fretted instrument. He was in a period teacher for my teacher at the Royal Academy in Århus, Jytte Gorki Schmidt.
The guitar and the Danish painters. Some of the greatest painters and sculptors in Denmark, had the guitar and similar plucked instruments as their musical companion. One of them, Godfred Christensen, tells many a funny story about his life with the guitar. Another painter, Anton Melbye, who during a performance of a virtuosic piece throws the guitar up in the air, catches it again, and just continues the music`s flow as if nothing really had happened.
Gotfred Christensen with guitar and paintings
Thorvald Rischel, Frederik Birket-Smith and their collection of guitar music at the Royal Library in Copenhagen. This important collection, well known in the guitar world for its historical significance and its many rare items of music from the 1800s, manuscripts and printed works, was collected mainly by the engineer and amateur guitarist Thorvald Rischel (1861-1939). He was a pupil of Søffren Degen and inherited this master`s music to add it into his own collection together with the collection of his friend and pupil Frederik Birket-Smith. The two also included items from other collections. Rischels great knowlegde of chamber music from the 1800s made him able to be the very first to find out about the circumstances in connection with the "guitar quartet" by Franz Schubert, which was actually composed by the Bohemian composer Wenzeslaus Matiegka. Rischel has also left us a huge dissertation, dealing with the guitar`s many scientific problems and technicalities. It is not yet reserched properly! A catalouge of the collection is published by Edition Orphée, Columbus, Ohio.
Thorvald Rischel, founder of the Rischel & Birket-Smith collection
Chapter twentyLouis Glass and his trio for Violin, Viola and Guitar. In the 1930s it was not exactly common for composers from the establishment of the musical world to write for the guitar. Chamber music for guitar of any artistic significance was virtually non existent. So therefore this remarcable chamber music work, which has a quality high enough everywhere, is an important composition in the history of the guitar. Louis Glass (1864-1936) was the great Danish composer Carl Nielsen senior by only one year and it was not easy for Glass to compete with this genius, not at least because they were very different in style and thinking. The myth has it that Carl Nielsen after hearing Segovia in Paris declared that he wanted to write a guitar concerto for the master. But it is only his collegue Glass, who actually did write for the instrument.
sums up the guitar activities during the first 60 years of the 1900s. It is about a charming guitar-singer culture in the beginning of the century in Scandinavia with famous figures such as Sven Scholander, who were important in guitar history, not so much because of his own playing, rather for making the fingerstyle playing popular. He was equally popular, not at least among female teenagers, as later were The Beatles or Aqua. The chapter also deals with the important guitar society "Guitarens Venner" "Friends of the Guitar", which had Scholander as one of its initiaters. This society of dedicated guitar amateurs, was instrumental in arranging, for the first time in Denmark, concerts with great guitar profiles of the times such as Miguel Llobet, Louise Walker, Heinrich Albert and the two German virtuosi Georg Meier and his son Willy Meier-Pauselius, who later on had an honourable American carrier. (An interesting letter is issued from Vadah Olcott Bickford to a student, warning him of the new playing technique persued by Meier-Pauselius). They performed both solo and as a duo.
The German lute master Walter Gerwig Also plays an important role in the Danish guitar mythology. This writer studied with him at a summer course in 1964.
Andrés Segovias first concert in Denmark was held the 27th of april 1927. Of course it was a sensation for the small danish guitar colony. Already in 1925 the Danish Guitar Magazine wrote about this young spaniard and his guitar triumphs around the world. The medias used the most poetic vocabulary to describe the masters revolutionary playing. Segovia himself was not really satisfied with the size of the audience, so the manager arranged a second concert, unfortionally with the same misfortune even if both concerts was really great artistical successes. It`s interesting to see the magnitude of the advertisment-pr concerning Segovia, in comparison with the far more modest advertisment when Llobet later visited us. But it was maybe a little to early for the Danish audience to accept and wellcome the guitar in a large concert hall. Later on Segovia visited Denmark many times and always with completely red light.
The Danish audiences appriciation and love for the great master, (some said that it was not always the case the other way around especially in the beginning) was expressed in 1968 with our most prestigious prize for musicians, the Leonie Sonning Music Prize, and here Andrés Segovia share honeur with great music personalities such as Stravinsky, Boulez, Leonard Bernstein and many others.
Around 1960 the classical guitar finally, after much struggle, won recognition in the Danish music academies, thanks to several guitar pioneers such as my teacher, Jytte Gorki Schmidt, the showman from the famous trio The Swe-Danes, Ulrik Neumann, who also was a serious and very talented classical guitarist, and many others, also foreign lute and guitar figures such as Segovia or the German lutenist Walter Gerwig with whom I myself studied at a summer course in 1964.
Neumann was merely self-taught, but Gorki Schmidt studied under different foreign virtuosi who visited Denmark in shorter or longer periods before, during and after World War II. Among them was the Spanish virtuoso Angel Iglesias.
Angel Iglesias. Read about this wonderful musician here: More information
Gorki Schmidt and Neumann was the first teachers at our two leading music academies in Copenhagen and in Århus. Thereafter a fantastic evolution for the guitar in Denmark took place! But that is another story...
Erling Møldrup, Århus Denmark 2000
Here is a list of selected CD`s with music of the Danish guitar history:
Johann Christian Schickhardt,12 Sonatas for Guitar, from Princess Charlotte Amalie`s Collection. Kristian Buhl-Mortensen - Monica Westheimer - Viggo Mangor - Mogens Rasmussen (Classico ClASSCD 167)
Stub, Weyse, Kuntzen, Schultz. Danish song from the 18th Century. Ulrik Cold og Kristian Buhl-Mortensen. (Classico CLASS 134)
Peter Fabricius` Lutebook,songs and lute music from the time of Christian IV. Ulrik Cold and Kristian Buhl- Mortensen. (Danacord DACOCD 376)
The King of Denmarks Delight, "Music from the days of Christian IV" Consortium Hafniense (Danacord DACOCD 307)
Music from the Court Chapel of Frederik IV,Suites for the Baroque Guitar with continuo. Kristian Buhl Mortensen with ensemble, Agnete Christensen, Mezzo Soprano. (Danacord DACOCD 473)
The Danish Classical Guitar,Schickhardt, Schall, Lemming, Pettoletti, Berggreen, Degen, Rung, Henriques, Meier, Glass. Erling Møldrup, and selected danish musicians. (Kontrapunkt 32255)
Music for flute and guitar from the Danish golden age.Nielsen Kuhlau, Degen, Rung, Zielche, Keck, Henriques. Erling Moldrup, Karl Lewkovitch, fløjte, (Olga CD 90051)
Thorvaldsen og Musikken.Ingolf Olsen and selected Danish Musicians. Music connected to the great Danish sculptor, partly from his music collection in "Thorvaldsens Museum" in Copenhagen. (Danacord DACOCD 424
Arabesca, Angel Iglesias. The Danish Odeon Recordings 1943-1953. (Primavera PVCD 9702)
Reviews of the book:
Its exiting to see the Danish Music history from the soundboard of the Guitar, especially when its told so vividly by Erling Møldrup.
Steen Chr. Steensen, Berlingske Tidende, Denmark
Edition Kontrapunkt, Distribution Engstrøm og Sødring