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8.225264 - LUMBYE: Orchestral Works, Vol. 9

Hans Christian Lumbye (1810-1874)

Hans Christian Lumbye (1810-1874)

Complete Orchestral Works Vol. 9


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’s 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



[1] Prinsen af Wales, Galop (1863) [The Prince of Wales, Galop]

The Prince of Wales Galop was composed for, and first performed at, a festival ball at the Casino Theatre on 10th March 1863, in honour of the wedding that day in Windsor between the Danish Princess Alexandra and Edward, Prince of Wales (the later King Edward VII). The galop is interesting in that, as a tribute to the Prince of Wales, it includes quotations of folk melodies from the various regions of the United Kingdom, in the form of an English folk-song, an Irish dance-tune and the Scottish folk-song “Charlie is my darling”. Lumbye combines these melodies and their widely divergent rhythmic structure in a single musical unity, in masterly fashion, within the confined form of the galop, so that one can scarcely divine that the music is in reality assembled from three borrowed melodies of very contrasting character.


[2] Alexandra Vals (1863) [Alexandra Waltz]

Lumbye composed this dashing suite of Alexandra Waltzes for the Alexandra festival ballet at the Casino Theatre on 10th March 1863; it was dedicated to “Her Royal Highness Princess Alexandra of Denmark”, who had been married to the Prince of Wales (the later King Edward VII) the same day at Windsor. The suite, which with its compact, short introduction is obviously composed for use within that festival ballet and not merely as a concert number, has an extra subtle detail in that Lumbye in the middle of the five waltzes of the suite incorporates two short quotations, one from the Danish national anthem, “Kong Christian stod ved højen mast” [“King Christian stood at the high mast”], and one from the British, “God save the Queen”. In this way Lumbye joins the newly-married couple together musically in the piece. The waltz immediately became very popular, long remaining a regular feature of court balls in Denmark and in England, and it also appeared quickly in music dealers in both countries in the form of printed piano arrangements.


[3] Petersborgerinden, Polka fra suiten Erindringer fra St. Petersborg (1850)

[The St Petersburg Lady, Polka from the suite Memories of St Petersburg]

The summer of 1850 was one of the few Tivoli seasons when Lumbye did not himself stand at the podium in front of his orchestra in the concert hall of the gardens. That year he received an offer of an engagement for six months in St Petersburg, where he gave concerts during all five summer months at a stretch. On his return to Copenhagen after this successful concert tour, he wrote a suite of five dances, which was published in the earliest printed piano arrangement under the collective title Erindringer fra St Petersborg (Memories of St Petersburg). The first dance in the suite is the present charming little polka, with the title Petersborgerinden, which is one of several polkas by Lumbye that is in a minor key (here, however, with a trio section in the major). The work was first performed at a concert in the Casino Theatre on 16th October 1850.


[4] Petersborg Champagne Galop fra suiten Erindringer fra St. Petersborg (1850)

[St Petersburg Champagne Galop, from the suite Memories of St Petersburg]

With the enormous popularity Lumbye achieved with his first Champagne Galop in 1845, it was only natural that he should try his hand once more at another work in the same genre. The inspiration for this came to him during his stay in St Petersburg in the summer of 1850, where his lengthy concert tour turned into a veritable triumphal procession. For a concert in the Casino Theatre on 16th October 1850 he composed this Petersborg Champagne Galop, which in every respect follows the same formula as in his first Champagne Galop, concerning both the form and the orchestration of the individual musical sections. The galop became enormously popular, especially abroad, and Lumbye’s French colleague Philippe Mussard always featured it in his concert repertoire in Paris. In Denmark the work appeared shortly after its première in a piano arrangement, as the second number in the suite Memories of St Petersburg.


[5] Rosalie Polka fra suiten Erindringer fra St. Petersborg (1850)

[Rosalie Polka, from the suite Memories of St Petersburg]

The lively Rosalie Polka was played for the first time in Denmark at a concert in the Casino Theatre on 1st November 1850. It had already been composed, however, during Lumbye’s stay in St Petersburg in the summer of that year, as can be seen clearly in the original score, which bears the double dating “7/14. Julii 1850”, obviously referring to the difference in date between the Julian (Old Style) and Gregorian (New Style) calendars. The Rosalie Polka may therefore be identifiable as the polka which Lumbye composed and dedicated to Grand Duchess Maria, Duchess of Leuchtenberg, in St Petersburg, and which was first performed there in all probability in July 1850. The work was published in Denmark shortly after its Danish première in a piano version, as the third number in the suite Memories of St Petersburg. It bears a certain musical similarity to Lumbye’s later Britta Polka of 1864, and it seems that he may have borrowed that from this.


[6] En promenade over Dyrehavsbakken, Galopade (1858) [A Promenade on the Deer Park Hill, Galopade]

In 1861 Lumbye composed a musical divertissement which depicts a promenade round the many attractions of the Tivoli gardens, and in the same way he wrote a similar work three years earlier, A Promenade on the Deer Park Hill, which, in the tight form of the galop, represents the many diverse booths and attractions which drew the public to the Deer Park Hill at Klampenborg. The galop, which is in thirteen short continuous sections, begins with a pastoral-sounding introduction, after which the listener is taken past the many different booths of the Deer Park Hill. The sections are presented in Lumbye’s original manuscript with the following programmatic titles: (1) Introduction, (2) A Soldier with a Barrel-Organ, (3) Ferdinand from the Tirol, (4) 1st Swing, (5) 2nd Swing, (6) There is Nothing in the Way, (7) Another Barrel-Organ, (8) Ferdinand from the Tirol, (9) Box of Magic Tricks, (10) Swing with Barrel-Organ and Drum, (11) Clown with Drum and Trumpet, (11) Rollercoaster, (12) An Old Man Plays the Violin, (13) The Drive Home. For his musical thumbnail sketches of these many attractions, Lumbye makes use of a wealth of quotations from the most popular tunes, marches and children’s songs of the day. Towards the end, they are all combined in a great musical and tonal chaos, in order to depict the noisy chaos that in reality filled the Deer Park Hill. The work, which in the original manuscript bears the subtitle Galopade barocque, was completed, according to Lumbye’s own dating, at 2.30 a.m. on 19th July 1858, and he made a fair copy a few days later, on 22nd July. It was first performed at a concert in the Tivoli gardens on 1st August of that year. Some years earlier, Lumbye had written many similar compositions in honour of the Deer Park Hill, in the form of waltzes, galops and musical divertissements. In addition, he wrote a so-called Musical Quodlibet in 1863, entitled A Little Deer Park Joke. Among all these works, however, his Promenade on the Deer Park Hill was one of the most popular, and it remained part of the Lumbye set repertoire in Tivoli right up to the beginning of the twentieth century.


[7] Storfyrst Alexander March (1866) [Grand Duke Alexander March]

In honour of the impending wedding between the Danish Princess Dagmar and Grand Duke Alexander of Russia (the later Tsar Alexander III) in St Petersburg on 9th November 1866, Lumbye composed his elegant Grand Duke Alexander March as a tribute to the bridegroom. It was first performed some months before the wedding at a public concert in Tivoli on 4th August 1866, and soon took its place as one of Lumbye’s most popular royal marches. As something quite exceptional, the work was also published in a piano arrangement in the journal Musikalske Nyheder (Musical Novelties), a full month before its public première.


[8] Drømmebilleder, Fantasi (1846) [Dream Pictures, Fantasia]

The orchestral fantasia Drømmebilleder (Dream Pictures) is Lumbye’s most famous composition, and can stand alone as a trade-mark of his musical inventiveness and fine orchestration. Ever since its first performance at Tivoli on 27th June 1846, this fantasia has also been among the surest successes with the public in Lumbye’s whole repertoire. Like many of his other “tone pictures” it is a piece of programme music, which, whether or not one is familiar with the underlying programme, lives through the freshness and vitality of the music itself. Shortly after its first performance, the fantasia was provided with a printed explanatory text, which was available before each concert at which Drømmebilleder was on the programme. In this leaflet, the “action” of the music is described in the form of an eight-verse poem. This was composed by a lawyer, Carl Nielsen, Lumbye’s impresario and close friend, and describes a young girl who relives “Everything that was Dear to Her in her Life” in a dream at sunset. From her memories of childhood in an idyllic flowery meadow, the dream takes her to a glittering ballroom and on again to a church festival. Next we see how the girl travels far from home, to the Austrian Alps, where a zither plays, and her heart is touched at an encounter with a young man, whom “Her Heart has Chosen”. This lovers’ meeting ends unresolved, and the young girl is cast into melancholy, until she suddenly wakes up from her dream and realises how deeply “The Heart can be Moved in a Dream”. Musically Lumbye depicts all the many changing moods in impeccable fashion, despite the fact that the fantasia is assembled in reality from such widely differing and contrasted genres as the waltz, chorale, galop, minuet, march and polka. Besides its central passage for solo zither, Drømmebilleder is also remarkable in its original version in containing a section for other distinctive instruments, such as the three-keyed csakan (flute shaped like an oboe, for amateurs). The work quickly set out on a triumphal progress throughout Europe, and accordingly belongs to those of Lumbye’s orchestral works which were published in the largest print runs and in the most diverse musical arrangements.


[9] Sylphide Vals (1849) [Sylphide Waltz]

On 22nd September 1849 the young ballerina Juliette Price made her début at the Royal Theatre in the title rôle of Auguste Bournonville’s famous ballet La Sylphide. With her praiseworthy performance in this exacting rôle, she was the talk of the whole of Copenhagen, and Lumbye was not slow in honouring her by composing his Sylphide Waltz, the name of which refers to her début rôle. It was first performed at a concert in the Casino Theatre on 29th November 1849, and long remained a popular number in Lumbye’s concerts. The suite begins with an ethereal presto introduction, and continues with a series of five waltzes, in which dashing dance music alternates with more lyrical sections. The fourth waltz in particular seems as if it were taken straight out of the dance of the Sylphide in Act II of Bournonville’s ballet. The suite ends with an elegant finale, in which parts of the first two waltzes recur, before the music concludes with a lyrical rallentando, followed by pompous closing chords.


[10] Souvenir de Peterhof, March (1850)

During his concert tour of Russia in the summer of 1850, Lumbye was invited, at the recommendation of one of the Tsar’s most intimate friends, General Adelberg, to give a concert in the Peterhof castle outside St Petersburg. For the occasion he composed on 2nd July the march Souvenir de Peterhof, which he dedicated to the “Emperor of Russia” and performed for the first time in the Peterhof concert hall a week later. It is a festive and sonorous work, which immediately provoked great enthusiasm, and was repeated at all Lumbye’s subsequent concerts in the concert hall of the imperial city. Immediately after his return to Copenhagen, Lumbye made the work part of his repertoire for the whole of the subsequent winter season, and the march was played in this way for the first time in Denmark at a concert in the Casino Theatre on 16th October 1850; a few months later it was also published in a piano arrangement by the German firm Breitkopf & Härtel.


[11] Nordlys Vals (1847) [Northern Lights Waltz]

The Northern Lights Waltz was composed for a concert at Tivoli on 3rd June 1847. It begins with an introduction which is almost a galop, followed by five fiery waltzes, and a finale in which parts of the first waltz recur. The suite is written in honour of the aurora borealis of the Nordic summer nights, where the Northern Lights regularly appear, and is distinctive through its conspicuous use of the brass instruments and its high degree of energy. In this way it is one of Lumbye’s most effective waltz suites, and was always included in his concert tour programmes outside Denmark. Its great popularity is also reflected in the fact that the waltz appeared in three different piano arrangements in Denmark and abroad.


[12] Blanche Polka (1857)

Among the many foreign artistes whom Lumbye encountered in private theatres in Copenhagen was the French buffo singer Mlle Blanche from Marseilles. She appeared during many seasons with her comic songs at Tivoli in the late 1850s and later also in the newly-opened Copenhagen restaurant, Thors Hal, on Vesterbro. Her ability to conquer the public with her infectious laughter in her singing, and her amusing coloratura trills, made Lumbye one of her most loyal admirers, and led him to honour her with his little humorous Blanche Polka. It was composed on 11th August 1857 and first performed at a Tivoli concert a few days later, on 14th August.


[13] Donau Blumen, Quadrille (1845) [Danube Flowers, Quadrille]

In the winter of 1845 Lumbye was making his first grand European concert tour, which took him to Berlin, Paris and Vienna. As a gift to the cheerful Viennese public, who had received his music with open arms, he composed his Danube Flowers Quadrille in honour of the Danube city. The quadrille genre, which is of old French origin with its roots in the contredanse, became one of the most popular ball dances in all of Europe in the 1830s and 1840s. As a rule it includes five dance figures with the French titles Pantalon, Été, Poule (with Coda), Trénise and Pastourelle, together with a finale. In his Donau Blumen Quadrille Lumbye follows this pattern strictly, which clearly reflects the fact that this music is intended for genuine dancing and not concert performance. The work was first performed, however, at a concert at Tivoli on 21st May 1845.


[14] Manoeuvre Galop (1840)

For a masked ball at the Hôtel d’Angleterre in Copenhagen on 12th March 1840 Lumbye composed his festive Manoeuvre Galop. The previous year he had made his début with his newly-established dance orchestra, and quickly won a reputation as the first Danish musician to play music à la Strauss, and there are unmistakable features of the music of Johann Strauss senior and of the Viennese style in this work, particularly in the marked rhythm and the sophisticated instrumentation, with its many subtle effects. The title of the work refers not to military manoeuvres but to the dance formations made by the participants in the masked ball while executing the furious galop.


Knud Arne Jürgensen

Translation: Geoffrey Chew

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