Johan Halvorsen

1864 - 1935



Johan Halvorsen was a Norwegian composer, conductor and violinist. He was born in Drammen in Norway and he showed great talent at playing the violin at an early age. He received his musical education in Kristiania (now Oslo) and Stockholm and became concertmaster in Bergen before he joined the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. He became professor of music in Helsinki and continued his studies in St. Petersburg, Leipzig, Berlin and Liège. 

In 1893 he returned to Norway and worked as conductor of the theatre orchestra at The National Scene in Bergen and of the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra.  In 1899 he was appointed conductor of the orchestra at the newly opened National Theatre in Kristiania, a position he held until his retirement in 1929. 

Halvorsen conducted performances of over 30 operas and wrote the incidental music for more than 30 plays. Following his retirement from the theatre he had time to concentrate on composition, completing three symphonies and two well-known Norwegian rhapsodies. 

His compositions are generally considered to follow in the nationalistic Romantic tradition as exemplified by Edvard Grieg. His best known orchestral works include Bojarenes Inntogsmarsj ("Entry of the Boyards”) and Bergensiana.
Critical Acclaim
...He was a man of the theatre. But beyond the transitory towers a lasting musical legacy - Hans Rossiné, Listen to Norway
...if the attention of the world's conductors could be directed this way, several of [Halvorsen's orchestral] pieces could well enjoy an independent life in the concert hall - Martin Andresson, Nordic Sounds
...Though at times Halvorsen's music courts both bombast and kitsch, it has a basic dignity which saves it from such criticisms - Martin Anderson, Nordic Sounds


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