Ole Bull : Norway's romantic musician and cosmopolitan patriot


Ole Bull : Norway's romantic musician and cosmopolitan patriot

Einar Haugen and Camilla Cai

University of Wisconsin Press, c1993

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Translated from the Norwegian

Includes bibliographical references (p. 329-335) and index



Norway's Ole Bull led one of the most remarkable lives of the 19th century. Colourful and charismatic, he was a composer and virtuoso violinist who won acclaim from Moscow to Alexandria to Chicago and promoted himself and the culture of Norway with a flair that rivalled P.T. Barnum. A child prodigy, Bull was admitted to the Bergen orchestra as first violin at the age of eight. He soon was idolized on both sides of the Atlantic for his superb improvizations and his ability to play the violin polyphonically. Though he was hailed as ""the Paganini of the North"", some critics labelled him a charlatan. Bull counted among his friends many of the great names of his era: Schumann and Liszt, Twain and Thackeray. Longfellow and Hans Christian Anderson modelled characters on him, and he was in part the inspiration for Ibsen's ""Peer Gynt"". Although he spent most of his adult life abroad, Bull tirelessly promoted Norwegian art and culture. His concert improvizations were rooted on his native ""slatter"" (folkdances), and he modified his own instrument using the Norwegian Hardanger fiddle as a model. By mid-century, Bull realized his dream of establishing a national theatre in Bergen. He gave Henrik Ibsen a start in theatre management, employed the poet Bjornstjerne Bjorksen, and promoted the music of Edvard Grieg. His attempt to establish a Norwegian colony, ""Oleana"", in the Unied States, however, failed. 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 Camilla Cai. In addition to providing 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, this biography gives life once again to a fascinating and flamboyant figure.

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