Thursday, January 29, 2015

Throw Back Thursday and Treasure Chest Thursday Meet

This picture was the treasure I received in my inbox when I checked e-mail while in Japan!  The photo is of the house in Oslo, Norway where my great-grandfather Adolf Hansen was born in 1852.  The name of the street is "grøndlandsleiret" and some of the buildings still exist today.

The e-mail also contained a biography of Adolf which appeared to come from an recording of his music. 

Adolf Hansen (1852-1911) had a background not unlike Svendsen’s. He grew up in straitened circumstances as the “illegitimate” son of “the unmarried discharged soldier Martin Hansen”, but had the will-power and energy to make a success of his life. When he was fifteen, he was accepted as a pupil by military musicians and received tuition in the clarinet and violin. Since there were no full-time employment possibilities for musicians in Norway at that time, most professional
musicians had to take on an assortment of different jobs. Hansen played in the Christiania Theatre Orchestra, and it is possible he also played in the Music Society Orchestra under Svendsen’s direction.

Fortune shone on him in 1880 when he was awarded a scholarship to study in Paris. Before he left Norway, the Brigade Music Corps arranged a composition evening to raise money for him. Some of his own works were played – mostly pieces for a military band, but also his string quartet – and he himself played the clarinet in a performance of Mozart’s clarinet quintet. On his return from France, Hansen was appointed kapellmeister for the Christiania Tivoli Orchestra, which consisted of 20 musicians who had to play two concerts a day. He thus held a position that corresponded to that of his more famous colleague Hans Christian Lumbye in Copenhagen’s Tivoli. Hansen composed melodious light music which was extremely popular in his day and which, when published in arrangements for piano, brought in good money. Many of his pieces have a girl’s name as their title – it seems he knew a few ploys to increase their sales and popularity! His music also often
reflected everyday life and events, as we shall see. He composed more than 300 works, and five of them are represented on this album.

Christianialiv: Musikalske tonebilleder (Christiania Life: musical tone pictures) was composed in 1888. It was originally scored for the piano, and is a real pot-pourri, with Hansen borrowing nine familiar tunes and placing them, in his own arrangements, between two galops. This is a form of programme music that was fairly popular in the second half of the 19th century. Christianialiv depicts a tour round some of the capital’s cultural and entertainment hotspots. The cover picture on the piano score (see p. 16 of this booklet) shows the people and buildings the traveller is going to see after arriving at the railway station. The music begins with a galop, written by Hansen himself, symbolising, of course, the train journey. From the square outside the station the itinerary
proceeeds up Karl Johan Street to the Studenterlunden park in the city centre, where the Brigade Music Corps plays a street march whose original score still lies in the band’s archives. Then follows supper at the Grand Hotel, accompanied by a serenade by I.P.Hansen. From there we move on to the old Christiania Theatre in Bankplassen, opposite today’s Engebret Café. Not unnaturally, one of Edvard Grieg’s melodies is heard here – the “Mannjevningen” march from Sigurd Jorsalfar. A galop from the 1880s takes the listener to the Tivoli Variety Theatre in the Tivoli Gardens at Klingenberg, where there was also a circus. A slow polka and the crack of a whip transport us into the circus ring and remind us of the dressage we can enjoy there. From the circus two well-known melodies lead us to a couple of Christiania’s most celebrated beer-halls,  the Centralhallen and Bazarhallen. Then it’s time for another theatre visit, and a gavotte ushers us into Victoria Theatre, before we end up dancing a waltz in Flora’s Dance Saloon at Klingenberg. The concluding railway galop makes it clear that we are ready to leave Christiania, after enjoying an eventful trip round some its attractions.

In May 1892 Adolf Hansen took over as director of the 4th Brigade Music Corps in Bergen. One of his first compositions there was the Serenade for Nina and Edvard Grieg’s silver wedding celebration. The serenade, which concludes with a trumpet fanfare in honour of the famous couple, was performed outside Trollhaugen, the Griegs’ home, in the morning of 11th June. In a letter to his editor in Peter’s publishing house in Leipzig, Grieg wrote: “The Brigade Music Corps played a work specially composed for this occasion – I shall never forget the effect this beautiful music had on me that wonderful quiet summer morning.”

 The other Serenade on this album was composed by Hansen for the young singer Nathalie Egeberg (1872-1931) whom he had married in 1889. She became one of the leading singers at Den Nationale Scene, Bergen’s theatre and opera house.  Hansen was a skilled violinist and played whenever he could in the Musikselskabet Harmonien (forerunner of today’s Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra), whose chief conductor in the years following 1893 was his friend Johan Halvorsen. This is possibly what inspired him in 1895 to compose his Romance for violin and piano, Op. 123. This work, which won huge popularity, was later arranged for B flat cornet and military band. The following year Hansen composed a work in rondo form which he called Bondebryllupet (Country Wedding).
First published in a version for piano, this work contained all the folk music elements people at that time expected in such a piece. It was given the Opus number 180, and if the numbering and order of his works are correct, Hansen managed to compose almost 60 works in 1895-96! This tells us how easily and quickly melodies flowed from his pen. Hansen was a much-loved personality in the musical life of Bergen. 

He died in 1911, five months before the death of his former teacher, Johan Svendsen.

Many thanks to cousin Anders De Lange for sharing this wonderful information about our mutual great-grandfather