Johan Halvorsen

Johan Halvorsen

Norwegian violinist, composer and conductor.
Date of Birth: 15.03.1864
Country: Norway

Biography of Johan Halvorsen

Johan Halvorsen was a Norwegian violinist, composer, and conductor. He began playing the violin at the age of seven and also played the trumpet and piccolo flute in the city military orchestra. He studied in Stockholm and made his debut in 1885 as a member of the Music Society "Harmonien" (later known as the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra). During this time, he met Edward Grieg and later married Grieg's niece. Halvorsen then traveled throughout Europe and spent some time in St. Petersburg, where he honed his violin skills under the guidance of Leopold Auer. From 1889 to 1892, he taught in Helsinki, influenced by the young Busoni.

In 1893, Halvorsen returned to Norway and became the conductor of the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra and the National Stage Orchestra in Bergen. In 1899, he moved to Christiania (now Oslo) and led the National Theatre Orchestra for 30 years. Halvorsen's compositions include three symphonies, with the most significant being his Second Symphony, Fatum, in D minor (1924, second revision in 1928). He also composed music for 30 theatrical productions, including Shakespeare's "As You Like It" (1912), "Much Ado About Nothing" (1915), and "Macbeth" (1920). Halvorsen was known for his arrangements of Norwegian folk music, starting with his recording of melodies by folk musician Knut Dale in 1901 at Grieg's suggestion. This experience influenced his cycle "Norwegian Songs and Dances" (Norske Vise og Danse) and other compositions.

One of Halvorsen's most well-known pieces is the "Entry March of the Boyars" (Bojarenes inntogsmarsj), inspired by his acquaintance with Romanian history after receiving an invitation to teach in Bucharest. He also made several transcriptions and arrangements, including orchestrating Grieg's Funeral March (which was performed at Grieg's funeral according to the composer's will). Halvorsen's arrangement for violin and viola of Handel's famous Passacaglia from the Seventh Suite remains his most famous work to this day. Halvorsen's son, Stein Grieg Halvorsen (born 1909), is a well-known Norwegian theater actor.