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Johan Svendsen (1840-1911)

Donald Macleod marks the centenary of Johan Svendsen, who became a Norwegian cultural hero as composer, conductor and saviour of a faltering musical tradition.

A century after his death Svendsen still finds himself in the shadow of his compatriot Edvard Grieg, yet in his native Norway he's rightly regarded as of equal important in rescuing the country's musical tradition from near oblivion.

Donald paints a portrait of a multi-talented individual. Svendsen excelled not only as composer but also as conductor but certainly wasn't free of weaknesses and foibles. Praised for his upstanding demeanour as a military bandsman, the revelation that he secretly fathered a child out of marriage in early life is followed by adventures across Europe with little money to see him home and a liking for abundant amounts of wine and spirit.

In his later life Svendsen transformed Oslo's professional orchestral players into a group capable of doing justice to the Norwegian musical tradition.

Release date:


1 hour, 5 minutes


Role Contributor
Composer Johan Severin Svendsen