Johan Svendsen (1840-1911)

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0120110613

Donald Macleod discusses Svendsen's childhood, and his membership of a military band.

A century after his death Johan Svendsen still finds himself in the shadow of his compatriot Edvard Grieg, yet in his native Norway he's rightly regarded as of equal important in rescuing the country's musical tradition from near oblivion.

Donald Macleod sets out to rescue Svendsen from his obscurity and paints a portrait of a multi-talented individual.

Svendsen excelled not only as composer but also as conductor, in fact in the last 29 years of his life it was his podium activities which saw him lionised first in Oslo, then in Copenhagen after one of the opera world's most controversial transfer deals.

Svendsen also turns out to have his human weaknesses and foibles.

Praised for his upstanding demeanour as a military bandsman, the revelation that he secretly fathered a child out of marriage in early life is followed by adventures across Europe with little money to see him home and a liking for abundant amounts of wine and spirit.

But he also turns out to have a warmer side.

As a conductor he quickly gains the highest respect of the musicians he works with, despite an attention to detail not enjoyed by the many musicians under his command who are hoping to stay out of the spotlight.

And as a concert promoter he remains deeply devoted to his native country at a time when all artists were searching for new direction in their work.

Donald Macleod begins the week with a look at the composer's childhood, when the 'Svendesboy' gained a reputation as the local tearaway for his practical jokes on the neighbors, but also as a talented musician in the local military band.

They are truly formative years, shaped by the dark figure of Svendsen's father whose belief that his son needs to be toughened up for life proves to have painful implications for the young musician.

0320110615

Donald Macleod follows Svenden's early efforts in rejuvenating Norway's national music.

The hunt is on for way of rejuvenating Norway's national music, and Svendsen thinks he might have the answer.

Donald Macleod follows him in his early efforts, and also on a trip to Bayreuth where the ever-modest Richard Wagner has requested 120 of the world's finest musicians to come and play for his birthday party.

0420110616

Donald Macleod focuses on how Svendsen knocked Oslo's orchestral players into shape.

Svendsen sets about the task which had already seen Grieg all but give up: transforming the motley bunch of Oslo's professional orchestral players into a group capable of doing justice to the Norwegian musical tradition.

With Donald Macleod.

05 LAST20110617

Copenhagen's Royal Theatre tries to lure Svendsen from Norway with a lucrative job offer.

Battle lines are drawn, as Copenhagen's Royal Theatre tries to lure Svendsen from Norway with a lucrative job offer.

It turns out to be a transformative moment in his musical career.

With Donald Macleod.