Halfdan Kjerulf

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Kjerulf, Halfdan


Born Sept. 17, 1815, in Christiania (now Oslo); died Aug. 11, 1868, in Grefsen, near Christiania. Norwegian composer, pianist, conductor, and teacher.

Kjerulf studied with K. Arnold in Christiania and with E. F. E. Richter at the Leipzig Conservatory. He conducted the Student’s Choral Society from 1845 to 1849 and the symphony orchestra in Christiania from 1857 to 1859. Kjerulf was a renowned piano teacher; his students included A. Backer-Grondahl and E. Lie-Nissen. He published his first compositions in 1841.

Kjerulf, who helped to create a national style of music, was the greatest of E. Grieg’s predecessors. With L. Linneman and O. Bull, he opened up Norwegian classical music to folk influences. Kjerulf, who is considered the creator of the Norwegian art song, composed more than 200 choral works and art songs and 45 works for the piano; he is the author of approximately 75 arrangements of folk melodies. Kjerulf s music is distinguished by its national romantic color, ardent lyricism, and melodic beauty.


Grieg, E. “Khal’fdan Kh’erul’f.” In his collection Izbr. stat’i i pis’ma. Compiled by, and with commentary and an introductory article by, O. E. Levasheva. Moscow, 1966.
Leites, R. “Khal’fdan Kh’erul’f i ego pesni.” Sovetskaia muzyka, 1966, no.4.
Nyblom, K. Halfdan Kjerulf. Stockholm, 1926.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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Even Backer Grondahl and Nissen have generally been discussed in terms of their relationship to their prominent male contemporaries--Backer Grondahl to Edvard Grieg, and Nissen to Halfdan Kjerulf. (12) Although social mores and economic barriers prevented most women from realizing the same degree of success as male musicians, some did achieve popularity with the Norwegian public.
According to Hogh and Morke, Vonen studied piano with the composer Halfdan Kjerulf in Christiania.
Composers less known outside of Scandinavia, such as Halfdan Kjerulf, Agathe Backer Grondahl, and Oskar Merikanto, are included.
Bull's contemporary and fellow countryman Halfdan Kjerulf, best remembered these days for his songs as a kind of Zelter to Grieg's Schubert, complained of the absence of serious music in Bull's programmes, and while he spoke of him playing the Adagio of Paganini's E flat major (D major) Concerto 'like a god', he thought that as a composer he was 'sailing without a compass and groping in the half-darkness'.
Up until that time, most Norwegian composers were educated abroad, especially in Leipzig, where Grieg, Halfdan Kjerulf, and Johan Svendsen all studied.
Halfdan Kjerulf intended to study law, but after the death of his father and two of his siblings in 1840 and 1841, he became a journalist to help support his three remaining younger siblings.
Halfdan Kjerulf and Rikard Nordraak compositions appear on only a handful of programs, and close friend Agathe Backer Grondahl's appear in only four.