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8.225265 - LUMBYE: Orchestral Works, Vol. 10

Hans Christian Lumbye (1810-1874)

Hans Christian Lumbye (1810-1874)

Complete Orchestral Works Vol. 10


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] Bouquet Royal, Galop (1870)


The ballet-divertissement Bouquet Royal was first performed by the dancers of the Royal Ballet at the Casino Theatre in Copenhagen on 27th January 1870, and consisted of three quadrilles and a galop finale. They were all choreographed by the ballet master August Bournonville, and symbolized the “bouquet” of seven nations that had been bound together through the three marriages that had been entered into the previous year in the Danish royal house. The third and last quadrille of the divertissement is entitled “Scandinavian Quadrille”, and has music arranged by Lumbye, as does the succeeding “Bouquet Royal Galop”, which he completed on 14th January 1870. Whereas the Scandinavian Quadrille consists of an orchestral arrangement by Lumbye of a series of Scandinavian folk-songs and dances, his galop finale is a completely original work, which makes no use of borrowed melodies. The galop and the quadrille soon became so popular that the première, which took place soon afterwards at the Casino, was produced as an independent ballet-divertissement at The Royal Theatre, where the dances remained in the repertoire until 1878. Subsequently, the galop was transferred to the Copenhagen concert halls, where it has ever since been one of Lumbye’s most popular and most frequently performed dances.


[2] El capricho, Pas de deux (1858)


August Bournonville choreographed El capricho in 1858 for two private English pupils of his, the dancers Agnes and Christine Healey, and it was first performed with music by Lumbye in the Casino Theatre on 1st September 1858. The pas de deux was performed as an interpolated number in Erik Bøgh’s vaudeville El capricho. This is a piece with local Spanish colouring, and was also performed later as a solo number for Agnes Healey. During their many tours around Scandinavia and Europe (Germany, England, Scotland and Ireland) in subsequent years, the Healey sisters also performed this popular dance with great success. The music thus became one of the works by Lumbye that was most often performed in the composer’s lifetime.


[3] Indian War Dance from the ballet Fjernt fra Danmark [Far from Denmark] (1860)


Lumbye’s Indian War Dance, from Bournonville’s ballet-vaudeville Fjernt fra Danmark eller Et Kostumebal ombord [Far from Denmark, or A Masked Ball on Board], belongs among his most popular ballet music. It was first performed at the Royal Theatre on 20th April 1860. The ballet, whose second act is set on board the Danish frigate Bellona, at anchor off the coast of South America, had music composed and arranged by Joseph Glæser. Owing to a series of problems preventing the score from being completed in time, Bournonville turned in the spring of 1860 to Lumbye, who he knew could always provide effective dance music at short notice, and Lumbye did not disappoint his colleague. With its fiery dynamics and colourful orchestration, the Indian war dance, performed in the ballet by an Indian chieftain, accompanied by three Indians and two squaws, is the best imaginable musical illustration of the wild tribe that Bournonville wished to portray in this dance. After its first performance, the music was quickly transferred to the concert hall, and subsequently achieved international fame, also appearing in a long series of various orchestral arrangements in many countries.


[4] Fiskerpigerne [The Fisher Girls], Hornpipe and Reel, Pas de deux (1858)


For the dancers Agnes and Christine Healey, Bournonville in 1858 choreographed the little dance scene The Fisher Girls, which was first performed at the Casino Theatre on 21st November with newly composed music by Lumbye. The action of the divertissement was described on the poster for the performance in the following terms: Two sisters wait on the English coast for an absent sailor, who is engaged to the elder sister. They spy the ship where he is on board, and wave to him in welcome, while the British national anthem is sung by the sailors. For his charming musical depiction of this little tableau, Lumbye makes use (among other things) of an English hornpipe, a Scots reel and the British national anthem, God save the King, which is attested at least since 1742, but which first became well known in its orchestral arrangement of 1745 by the composer Thomas Arne.


[5] Galop militaire, Pas de deux (1859)


Lumbye composed his 1859 Galop militaire for the Healey sisters, and it was first performed with choreography by Bournonville at the Casino Theatre on 21st January 1859. The pas de deux, in which the dancers wore military costumes, is one of Lumbye's most elaborate ballet pieces. Bournonville himself describes the work in his diary as a gallopade, which seems to suggest that the work is more a staged society dance than a genuine ballet-divertissement. Concerning the reception of the dance by the public, the ballet master writes, somewhat laconically, in his diary: “To the Casino; my new Galop militaire, very bad attendance and handsome applause”. Like very many other dances by Lumbye composed for the Healey sisters, this pas de deux was performed with great success during their numerous ballet tours in Scandinavia and Northern Europe.


[6] Polketta, Pas de deux divertissement (1859)


Lumbye’s Polketta, which was first performed by Agnes and Christine Healey at the Casino Theatre on 31st October 1858, is expressly described on the poster for the performance as a work “composed for the Healey sisters”. Once again the choreography was by August Bournonville, who, according to his memoirs, thought the dance the very best in the long series of ballet-divertissements which he choreographed for the Healey sisters for their guest appearances in the Copenhagen ballet in the 1858-59 season. The special quality of the choreography of the dance and its great popularity with the public are clearly reflected also in the number of performances, as the divertissement amassed more than 150 performances in Bournonville’s lifetime alone. Lumbye’s exceptionally well-orchestrated music contributed also to this great success, and may here represent the most refined contribution that he ever made within the genre of ballet music. The dance, which commences in the minor key, is divided into six very varied sections, with the movement titles Entrée, Tempo di Polka mazurka, Adagio, Allegretto, Entrée and Tempo di Polka. After the ballet ceased to be staged, the Polka Mazurka movement remained a popular concert hall number, and has continued to be played right up to our own times.


[7] De uimodståelige [The Irresistible], Divertissement (1850)


The divertissement De uimodståelige was one of Bournonville’s most distinctive ballets. It was first performed at the Royal Theatre on 3rd February 1850, and immediately created a great sensation. Bournonville’s idea in this ballet was to render a staged tribute to the soldiers returning home from the Three Years’ War with Germany (1848-50). The title of the divertissement was a clear reference to a famous French infantry regiment, on which Napoleon I had conferred the name of honour “L’Irrésistible” for its great military achievements.


Through ingenious choreography in which the whole female corps de ballet is incorporated, Bournonville here seeks to represent a noble army of modern Valkyries, who, on stage in contemporary military uniform and with gleaming, drawn swords, are to remind the public of the victory of the Danish soldiers over the German army in the battle for Fredericia. In order to realize this idea, the ballet master turned to Lumbye, who quickly provided effective and pleasing music, which supported Bournonville’s choreography in the best possible way with its orchestral power and rhythmic energy. In the finale of the divertissement, Lumbye included in addition, as a special closing effect, J. Ole Horneman’s melody to Peter Faber’s popular patriotic national song of 1848,

Den tapre landsoldat [The Brave Soldier].


Despite Bournonville’s well-intentioned idea and Lumbye’s fluent, dashing music, the ballet produced strongly mixed feelings in the public. Their resistance was based on a refusal to accept a representation of the undoubted achievements of the Danish soldiers on stage by a female corps de ballet with drawn swords, costumed in the fur uniforms of the hussars. At its subsequent nine performances, the ballet provoked open demonstrations in the theatre, and Bournonville then decided to remove the work from the poster, adding regretfully: “Essentially it was only a pièce de circonstance, without any claim to mastery, but just as ardent in its conception as in its realization”. Lumbye’s music, however, remained as a superb example of his undiminished ability to provide great and well-orchestrated military music for the theatre.


[8] Polacca guerriera, Pas de deux (1846)


The pas de deux Polacca guerriera was choreographed by Bournonville and first performed by himself and the solo dancer Augusta Nielsen at The Royal Theatre on 5th September 1846. It was intended as a tribute to the Polish struggle for liberty, and is described in Bournonville’s memoirs as follows: “The dance represents a Polish nobleman bidding farewell to his beloved, dancing his last mazurka with her and hastening to the battle for liberty and fatherland”. It was received without enthusiasm, and was soon withdrawn. Despite the short run of the ballet, Lumbye’s characteristic and fiery music remained popular with the public, and was performed as an independent musical divertissement at Tivoli in the same year, and in the Casino Theatre the following year, on 25th April 1847. The dance, which is in four main sections, begins with a Polska with numerous dotted rhythms. This is followed by a lyrical intermezzo with a cello solo, and continues with a dashing mazurka with a lyrical, almost waltz-like trio section. After this the pas de deux closes with a fiery polka movement, in which the two dancers hurl themselves into a whirling national dance, as if to alleviate the pain of the impending farewell they are to bid one another.


[9] Hilsen til vore venner (Salut à nos amis), March (1867)          


In the summer of 1867, a group of French parliamentarians and journalists visited Copenhagen. They had supported Denmark’s cause during the disastrous Danish-German war in 1864, and were now greeted as the country’s true friends in need. In connection with their visit, Lumbye composed a festive march, which was first performed in the presence of the visitors in the amusement park on 12th August 1867. The work soon became one of his most popular marches, and was arranged for wind band shortly after its première, in which form it was often played in the town streets when the Life Guard marched through the town on festive occasions.


[10] Lucette, Polka-mazurka, from the suite Luftens datter [The Daughter of the Air] (1851)


One of the Casino Theatre’s greatest successes with the public in the nineteenth century was the French Romantic magic play La fille de l’air. In Peter Faber’s translation, Luftens datter, it was premièred in Denmark on 23rd December 1850. The piece, which survived in the Casino Theatre’s repertoire for the next 25 years, provided the direct stimulus for Lumbye’s composition of a suite of four dances with the same collective title, in which each of the dances was named after one of the main protagonists. Lucette (also sometimes called Lisette), for example, was the young girl in the play, a role which was taken by the actress Nicoline Sichlau. As a gift, Lumbye dedicated this music to her mother, E. Sichlau. The main melody of the music, which has a clear Swedish polska character, is constructed on a musical borrowing from one of the many popular Swedish polska songs by the Swedish composer Johan Isidor Dannström (1812-97). The dance, which is the third number in the suite, was composed on 26th February 1851 and first performed at a concert in the Casino Theatre only two days later, on 28th February. Thanks to its great popularity, it was soon adopted in the musical repertoire at Tivoli, where it was played for the first time on 23rd May of the same year, and all four of the dances from the suite appeared in piano arrangements during March and April 1851.


[11] Bacchus Galop (1853/1870)    


The Bacchus Galop was originally composed as the last number in a suite of five dances, first performed at the Casino Theatre on 24th February 1853 with the title Musikalsk Divertissement [Musical Divertissement].

               Many years later, Lumbye again used the galop as ballet music in the music by himself and his son, Georg Lumbye, for August Bournonville’s pas de deux Bacchantinderne [The Bacchantes], which was first performed at the “Theatre” at Tivoli on 25th July 1870 by the English dancers Agnes and Christine Healey. Thus it provides a fine example of the way in which Lumbye’s galops are often just as well suited to the concert hall as to the theatre.


Knud Arne Jürgensen


Translation: Geoffrey Chew


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