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8.225255 - LUMBYE: Orchestral Works, Vol. 7
English 

Hans Christian Lumbye (1810-1874)

Hans Christian Lumbye (1810-1874)

Hans Christian Lumbye, today the internationally best known and most popular Danish composer of dances of the nineteenth century, was born in Copenhagen on 2nd May 1810. While he was still a child his family moved to the provinces, since his father, a military official, was posted first to Jutland and later to Odense, the birthplace of Hans Christian’s later world-famous namesake, the fairy-tale writer Hans Christian Andersen.

In Odense Lumbye had his first real musical training and at the age of fourteen he succeeded in becoming a trumpeter in the local regimental band. The next year he received his diploma as a trained trumpeter, and at nineteen he returned to his birthplace Copenhagen, where he was employed as a trumpeter in 1829 in the Royal Horse Guard. In the 1830s, besides holding this musical post, Lumbye was a busy musician in the Copenhagen Stadsmusikantorkester or City Orchestra, and his earliest preserved dance compositions come from these years.

In 1840 Lumbye put together his own orchestra. The inspiration to take this step had come after he had attended a series of concerts given in Copenhagen by a musical society from Steiermark in Austria, where Johann Strauss’ and Joseph Lanner’s new dance tunes were heard for the first time in Scandinavia.

With his own first Concert à la Strauss at the fashionable Raus Hotel in Copenhagen (the later Hôtel d’Angleterre) on 4th February 1840, Lumbye definitively began his lifelong activity as Denmark’s and Scandinavia’s undisputed leading dance composer. Three years later, when the now world-famous amusement park Tivoli opened its gates in Copenhagen, Lumbye acquired the final, permanent setting for his long and prolific composing and conducting career as the leader of the concert hall’s orchestra. For this orchestra he composed some seven hundred dances over the next thirty years, first and foremost polkas, waltzes and galops — the last of these genres almost became synonymous with his name. But with his numerous orchestral fantasias, too, and more than 25 ballet-divertissements, Lumbye demonstrated his true mastery.

In the best of his works his orchestrations have a distinctive, lyrical, almost pristine Copenhagen sound that differs from the Vienna composers’ more hot-blooded orchestral tone. Lumbye often has the violins accompanied by limpid flute sounds, while Johann Strauss, for example, liked to have the melody lines of the strings accompanied by instruments with a fuller sound like the oboe and clarinet. Lumbye also created a brighter and lighter orchestral sound than the Vienna composers thanks to his use of glockenspiel, triangle and brass.

A long series of tours abroad to Hamburg, Berlin, Vienna, Paris, St Petersburg and Stockholm brought Lumbye international recognition and fame, but he never abandoned his post in the amusement park, where his jovial figure remained a popular ingredient in Copenhagen’s musical life until his death on 20th March 1874.

H. C. Lumbye’s importance in the nineteenth century for the creation of a broad, popular musical culture in Northern Europe can hardly be overestimated, but his greatest importance perhaps lies in the fact that his innumerable dance tunes have up to our own day preserved their special freshness and artistic integrity.

Knud Arne Jürgensen

Translation: James Manley

Complete Orchestral Works Vol. 7

[1] Juliette Galop (1857)

The Juliette Galop was composed for the principal dancer of the Royal Danish Ballet, Juliette Price. Since her début at the Royal Theatre in Copenhagen in 1849 she had been the famous ballet-master August Bournonville’s declared ideal dancer and the prima ballerina of the Royal Ballet for almost twenty years. Her huge popularity in the 1850s and 1860s also brought her this beautiful musical tribute from Lumbye in the form of a very fiery, almost masculine galop that testifies to Juliette Price’s vital and energetic style of dancing. The galop, composed on 4th February 1857, was first performed as part of a private evening entertainment at the Hofteatret on 14th February, where it was danced as a concert number in between two of Juliette Price’s most famous Bournonville dances.

[2] Moller Polka-Mazurka (1866)

Lumbye composed the Moller Polka-Mazurka in 1866 for a certain "Capitain A. F. Moller". The work was given its first peformance in the Tivoli Concert Hall on 19th May the same year and quickly became so popular that from 4th September that year it was also included in the musical repertoire of Folketeatret. With its simple rhythms and the many triplet figures in the trio section, the dance is a fine example of Lumbye’s bold and yet highly sophisticated mazurka melodies.

[3] Mac Mahon March (1870)

With the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War in 1870 the Danes revived their hopes of reuniting the lost North Schleswig with the Danish Kingdom. At this time Lumbye was at the head of his orchestra in Tivoli, where he gave several benefit concerts for the wounded and fallen French soldiers and their families. Thus the Mac Mahon March was dedicated to a general in the French army during the Franco-Prussian War, and the work was first performed at one of these benefit concerts in Tivoli on 31st August 1870. With its many parallel thirds and sixths it is one of Lumbye’s most euphonious marches. At the same time, with its almost polka-like vitality and genuine joie de vivre, it is one of his most danceable works in this genre.

[4] Tågebilleder (Mist Pictures), Fantasia (1846)

One of the most distinctive orchestral fantasias by Lumbye is his Tågebilleder or Mist Pictures from 1846. In a series of varied musical sections Lumbye presents a number of tableaux inspired by seeing a group of English conjurors performing in Tivoli. In scenic tableaux they had conjured up a series of pictures of widely differing characters live on stage. The striking impression their changements à vue had made on the audience prompted Lumbye to set these picturesque tableaux to music in the form of a tone poem that begins with an Adagio evoking an idyllic sunrise in Switzerland with church bells, an alpenhorn and other sound effects. This scene is followed by an Allegro describing a sudden storm at sea with a crew of sailors praying for their lives. The third tableau is a Scherzo depicting a band of Gypsies and their colourful procession, dancing, zither playing and a concluding festival march. The fourth and last tableau of the fantasia describes a coronation ceremony in a church with a chorale followed by a processional march and a prayer in the form of an Andante religioso, all rounded off by a ceremonial homage march.

The work was first performed in a concert at Ridehuset in Christiansborg Palace on 29th November 1846 and in many ways can be seen as a follow-up to Lumbye’s immensely popular orchestral fantasia Dream Pictures, which had been premièred just a few months earlier.

[5] Souvenir de Hambourg, Polka

(Souvenir Polka) (1856)

After returning to Copenhagen from a successful tour to Hamburg in the autumn of 1856, Lumbye gave a number of orchestral concerts at the restaurant establishment Sommerlyst in Frederiksberg, where he presented some new compositions written as a result of his recent tour in Germany. One of these was the polka Souvenir de Hambourg, which was later known simply as the Souvenir Polka.

The work was composed in Hamburg on 29th October 1856 and appeared for the first time in a piano version in Hamburg, dedicated to "den Damen Hamburgs hochachttungsvoll" (‘most respectfully to the ladies of Hamburg’). The polka was very likely also played for the first time in Hamburg as an item in Lumbye’s concert tour. The Danish première took place just a month later on 27th November.

[6] Catharina Waltz (1858)

Having visited St Petersburg and given concerts there a few years earlier, in 1858 Lumbye composed the beautiful, melodious Catharina Waltz called after Russia’s famous Empress Catherine the Great. Lumbye had previously composed a polka called after the same Russian empress, and had written several other works inspired by his stay in Russia. His Catharina Waltz begins with a calm, dignified Andantino, followed by five waltzes and a finale which repeats parts of the last and first waltz.

The work, one of Lumbye’s best orchestrated and most sophisticated waltzes, was performed for the first time at a public concert in the Casino Theatre on 3rd February 1858. Thanks to its great popularity it was quickly also added to the repertoire of Folketeatret on 26th March the same year and played in Tivoli on 13th May. Thus the whole music-loving public of Copenhagen very quickly made the acquaintance of this highly tuneful waltz.

[7] Diana Galop (1862)

In the festive Diana Galop, dedicated to the goddess of hunting, Lumbye uses a hunting horn and the whole wind section in the introduction. The work was composed for a winter concert at the Casino Theatre, where it was first performed on 27th February 1862. It is a fine example of Lumbye’s never-failing talent for writing characterful galops with richly coloured orchestration and a fiery mood seasoned with many rhythmic and orchestral surprises. Despite the great popularity of the dance, the Diana Galop was never published in a piano version, as were Lumbye’s many other galops.

[8] La Polonaise, Pas de deux (1859)

The dance scene La Polonaise is one of many pas de deux divertissements that the famous ballet-master August Bournonville choreographed for his two English private pupils, the dancers Agnes and Christine Healey. In the 1850s they had performed several small dances at the Casino Theatre choreographed by their Danish ballet-master, usually to newly composed music by Lumbye. The dance was later performed by the Healey sisters on their tours in Scandinavia and the rest of Europe, and is thus one of the ballet compositions by Lumbye that became known farthest afield in the composer’s own lifetime. It consists of a recurring polonaise theme varied with sections for solo performance by each of the two dancers. The divertissement was first played as part of the Healey sisters’ farewell performance at the Casino Theatre on 31st March 1859, and according to Bournonville’s diary it garnered "much applause".

[9] Souvenir de Jenny Lind, Waltz (1845)

As a tribute to the great Swedish soprano Jenny Lind, who was giving her second guest performance in Copenhagen in 1845, Lumbye composed the charming waltz suite Souvenir de Jenny Lind. It was given its first performance in a concert in honour of the singer at Ridehuset in Christiansborg Palace on 19th October 1845. With it calm, rounded motifs Lumbye wanted to present a picture of the friendliness and amiability that everyone agreed were the Swedish primadonna’s most striking personality traits.

The waltz begins with a lyrical Andante in a minor key with a clear touch of Swedish folk music. Then come five waltzes and a finale that repeats parts of the first waltz. With its lyrical tone it greatly recalls Lumbye’s later and perhaps most perfect waltz suite Amélie Waltz, which he composed the year after the appearance of the waltz for Jenny Lind.

[10] Venetian Drum Polka (Venetian Tattoo) (1847)

The playful Venetian Drum Polka was composed by the founder of Tivoli, Georg Carstensen, and was orchestrated by Lumbye, who lavished all his powers of invention on the brass section. The work, which is dedicated to the composer Emil Hornemann, was first performed at a concert in Tivoli on 16th July 1847, but later that year it was also used by the dancer Flora Price for a small choreographical event at the Casino Theatre on 3rd December, where her children Sophie, Theodor and Waldemar Price performed a children’s dance dressed in Venetian costumes.

[11] Echo from the Ballroom, Character Dance (1861)

The dance scene Echo from the Ballroom was choreographed by August Bournonville for his English private pupils Agnes and Christina Healey, who performed it for the first time at Folketeatret on 28th February 1861. The divertissement describes two young ladies who have returned from a ball and are reliving the various dances they have just been whirling in. The suite of dances (quick waltz, slow waltz and hopsa) is linked together by lyrical lento passages. The scene ends with a fiery galop finale, later incidentally used by Lumbye as an independent concert number in 1869 with the title Velocipede Galop.

Echo from the Ballroom was also staged in 1862 by Bournonville in Stockholm with the Healey sisters, who then took the dance with them on their many other European tours.

In Copenhagen the music was also performed as an item in a public concert in Tivoli on 1st June 1861, and it appeared at the same time in a piano version, which however left out the galop and was now called Echo from the Ball.

[12] Nordic Union Galop (1847)

The Nordic Union Galop, which begins with three Scandinavian folk tunes, was originally dedicated to "The Scandinavian Natural Scientists" and was composed for a banquet in Tivoli on the occasion of the Scandinavian natural scientists’ meeting in Copenhagen in July 1847. The work, which was performed for the first time in a public concert on 16th July, starts with the Swedish folk melody Liten Karin, followed by the Norwegian folk song Aa kjøre vatten aa kjøre ve’, which is in turn followed by the Danish patriotic song Danmark, dejligst vang og vænge. Then comes the festive galop itself, characterized by alternating pianissimo and fortissimo passages until the Danish song again appears as a brief quotation in the conclusion. The work is one of many examples of Lumbye’s never-failing ability to supply perfect compositions for particular occasions.

Knud Arne Jürgensen

Translated by James Manley


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