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Harald Saeverud

April 17, 1897 - March 27, 1992
born in Bergen, Norway, composed during the Modern period
Harald Saeverud may well be considered the most important Norwegian composer after Grieg. Saeverud shares several traits in common with the iconic Grieg: both were prolific and produced a substantial body of music for the piano (especially smaller pieces inspired by nature). The two also wrote popular works based on Ibsen's Peer Gynt, and each was highly individual in his respective musical style: in the case of Saeverud, his music began as richly post-Romantic and transformed in the 1930s into a neo-Classical style with an often powerful and dissonant character. Though Saeverud did have a large keyboard output, he was primarily a composer of orchestral compositions, with nine symphonies to his credit, much incidental music, concertos (for piano, violin, cello, bassoon, oboe), film scores, overtures, divertimentos, and a spate of smaller works for orchestra. Saeverud also composed string quartets and a substantial body of other chamber works. Though he remains a popular composer in Norway, he is generally regarded, perhaps unfairly, as a less important figure in Europe, the U.S., and elsewhere across the globe. Still, many of his most important large works, including the symphonies, concertos, and Peer Gynt, have been widely available on recording since the 1990s.

Saeverud was born in Bergen on April 17, 1897. From 1915 to 1919 he studied at the Bergen Conservatory where his most important teachers included Borghild Holmsen. Though his studies focused only on piano and theory there, he began working on his First Symphony in 1915, completing it in 1920. That year he began composition studies at the Berlin Hochschule für Musik, where he was a pupil of Friedrich Koch.

Saeverud returned to Norway in 1922, living first in his hometown of Bergen, then settling, with his wealthy American-born wife Marie, outside the city in a mansion he named Siljustøl, whose bucolic surroundings inspired his series of piano pieces, Tunes and Dances from Siljustøl. During World War II Saeverud wrote several large works protesting the German invasion of his country, including Symphonies No. 5, No. 6, and No. 7 and The Ballad of Revolt (1940). After the war Saeverud remained active in composition, producing the ballet Count Bluebeard's Nightmare (1960), concertos, and more symphonies. Saeverud's last symphony, No. 9, came in 1966, but the composer soon developed an interest in chamber music, writing two wind quintets, three string quartets, and several other chamber pieces. Saeverud died in Bergen on March 27, 1992. ~ Robert Cummings, Rovi
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