Norway's Romantic Musician and Cosmopolitan Patriot
ISBN10: 0299132501 ISBN13: 9780299132507 Contributors: Cai, Camilla Publisher: Univ of Wisconsin Pr Published: Apr 15 1993 Weight: 1.60lbs. Height: 9.25" Width: 6.25" Depth: 1.00" Language: English
Norway's Ole Bull led one of the most remarkable and celebrated lives of the nineteenth century. Colorful and charismatic, he was a composer and virtuoso violinist who won acclaim from Moscow to Cairo and from Canada to Cuba, associated with the cultural elite of his day, and promoted himself and the culture of Norway with a flair that rivaled P.T. Barnum's. A child prodigy, Bull was admitted to the Bergen orchestra as first violin at the age of eight. He soon was playing to admiring audiences across Europe and in North America, idolized on both sides of the Atlantic for his superb technical skill in improvisation and his ability to play the violin polyphonically. His success was marked by controversy, however. Though he was hailed as "the Paganini of the North," some critics labeled him a charlatan for his seemingly magic tricks on the violin. Ole Bull counted among his friends and admirers many of the great names of his era: Schumann and Liszt, Emerson and Wagner. Longfellow found in Bull a model for the musician in his Tales of a Wayside Inn. Hans Christian Andersen portrayed Bull as a veritable fairy prince in his "Episode of Ole Bull's Life," a characterization that in part inspired Ibsen's Peer Gynt Although he spent most of his adult life abroad, Bull's love for and pride in his native land were always manifest. He was a staunch Norwegian nationalist, a tireless promoter of its native art and culture. Some of the concert improvisations for which he was celebrated were rooted in his native slatter (folkdance tunes). He modified his own instrument, flattening the bridge and making the bow longer and heavier, using the Norwegian Hardanger fiddle as a model. By mid-century, Bull was able to realize his dream of establishing a national theater in Bergen. He gave Henrik Ibsen a start in theater management, employed the poet Bjornstjerne Bjornson, and promoted the music of Edvard Grieg. His attempt to establish a Norwegian colony in the United States, however, was unsuccessful. "Oleana," for which Bull purchased a land grant in Pennsylvania, failed in little more than a year because of his ineptitude in selecting land and managing financial enterprises. He made his home base, finally, in Norway, buying an island south of Bergen where he built for himself a fantastic palace of music. He never retired from the concert stage. Indeed, he performed in Chicago just three months before his death in 1880. The words of the poet Aasmund Vinje, "That surely would be a man to write a book about," have been taken to heart by authors Einar Haugen and his daughter Camilla Cai. In addition to giving life once again to a fascinating and flamboyant figure, this biography provides the first comprehensive listing of Bull's works (with full descriptions of all known sources), analyses of his compositions and their influences, and reviews of his performances.