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Peter Heise

February 11, 1830 - September 12, 1879
born in Copenhagen, Denmark, composed during the Romantic period
Peter Heise was an esteemed but conservative figure in Danish Romantic music, a composer important mainly for his many lieder on Danish texts. He studied music in Copenhagen with Andreas Peter Berggreen, and in Leipzig (1852-1853) with Moritz Hauptmann, although whether these lessons were private or part of a course at the Leipzig Conservatory is a matter of some confusion. In 1854, about the time he published his first collection of songs, he was making important intellectual contacts back in Denmark as conductor of the Studenter-Sangforening. Three years later he got a job as organist and music teacher in Sorø, but marriage to a wealthy merchant's daughter put him in a position to return to Copenhagen, limit his teaching responsibilities, and focus mainly on composing.

Trained as he was in Leipzig, Heise developed a conservative German aesthetic, and his chamber works in particular show the strong influence of Beethoven, Mendelssohn, and Schumann; Danish nationalists would claim that the strongest influence on him was Niels Gade, which amounts to the same thing. Heise's last songs, highly expressive and rather free in structure, suggest that he might have eventually gone in a somewhat more progressive direction had he not died at the age of 49. The bulk of his songs, though, adhere to earlier models, and are noted for their great lyricism and use of Danish texts.

Toward the end of his life, Heise was achieving success as a composer of music for the theater, largely incidental scores and ballets, and the singspiel Paschaens datter (The Pasha's Daughter). His more ambitious second opera, Drot og marsk (King and Marshal), produced the year before his death, is regarded as the great masterpiece of Danish nineteenth century opera, although its style owes much to Weber, Verdi, and Meyerbeer. ~ James Reel, Rovi
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