Oakeley, Sir Herbert (Stanley)

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Olsen, Ole

(b Hammerfest, 4 July 1850; d Oslo, 9 Nov 1927). Norwegian composer and military musician. He studied with Fredrik and Just Lindeman in Trondheim (1865–9) and with David, Paul and Reinecke in Leipzig (1870–74). From 1874 he worked as a music teacher in Christiania [now Oslo], where he also conducted the Christiania Artisan’s Choral Society (1876–80), the Music Society (1877–80) and the freemasons’ orchestra (1894–1908). In 1884 he was appointed music director of the Akershus 2nd Brigade, and in this position he built up a repertory of Norwegian marches, many of them based on folktunes that he had had a hand in collecting. His concert and stage works are also representative of the nationalist tradition; some of them enjoyed great popularity. The operas were influenced by Wagner’s ideas.


(selective list)

Stage: Stig Hvide (op, Olsen), 1872–6; King Erik XIV, incid music, perf. Vienna, 1882; Svein Uraed, incid music, perf. Christiania, 1890; Lajla (op, Olsen), 1893, Christiania, 8 Oct 1908; Stallo (op, Olsen), 1902; Klippeøerne (op, Olsen), 1904–10

Choral: Ludvig Holberg, cant., 1884; Griffenfeldt, cant., 1897; Nidaros, orat, 1897; Broderbud, cant., n.d.; Fanevakt, male chorus, n.d.; I jotunheimen, male chorus, n.d.

Orch: Sym., G, 1878; Åsgårdsreien, 1878; Petite suite, pf, str, 1902; Hn Conc., 1905; Vaeringetog, n.d.; Ritornell, n.d.; Romance, vn, orch, n.d.; Tarantelle, vc, orch, n.d.

Piano pieces, many military marches


A.C. Dahl: Ole Olsen (Oslo, 1910)

N. Grinde: Norsk musikkhistorie (Oslo, 1971, 3/1981, abridged 4/1993; Eng. trans., 1991)

D.Y. Torkildsen: Svein Uraed av Ole Olsen (diss., U. of Oslo, 1987)

H. Herresthal: Med spark i gulvet og quinter i bassen: musikalske og politiske bilder fra nasjonalromantikkens gjennombrudd i Norge [with kicks on the floor and fifths in the bass: musical and political images from the breakthrough of national romanticism in Norway] (Oslo, 1993)


Olsen, Poul Rovsing [Rovsing Olsen, Poul]

(b Copenhagen, 4 Nov 1922; d Copenhagen, 2 July 1982). Danish composer and ethnomusicologist. He studied solfège and the piano as a child in Randers, and had organ lessons from Georg Fjelrad (1940–42) while studying law in Århus. Still continuing law studies, he attended the Copenhagen Conservatory (1943–6), where his teachers were Jeppesen (harmony and counterpoint) and Christiansen (piano). On completing his legal training in 1948 he went to France for studies with Boulanger (composition) and Messiaen (analysis). The next year he returned to Copenhagen, where in 1950 he took the conservatory examinations to qualify as a music teacher. He was music critic for the Morgenbladet (1945–6), Information (1949–53) and the Berlingske tidende (1954–74), also working for the Danish Ministry of Education (1949–60), and became archivist of the Dansk Folkemindesamling in 1960. As an ethnomusicologist he took part in expeditions to Greenland and the Persian Gulf, and he taught ethnomusicology at the universities of Lund (1967–9) and Copenhagen (from 1969). In 1967 he was appointed to the executive board of the International Folk Music Council and was its president from 1977. He was chairman of the Danish Composers’ Union from 1962 to 1967, serving on its executive board thereafter. In addition, he was chairman of the Danish section of NOMUS (the committee for musical cooperation among Nordic countries, 1963–72) and in 1974 became chairman of the music section of Statens Kunstfond.

In early works Olsen’s style reflected Bartók, Stravinsky and Nielsen. The Trio op.18 shows a growing interest in traditional musics, and his experimental concerns were stimulated by his participation in the 1952 American Seminar in Salzburg, led by Babbitt. He first used 12-note principles in the Symphonic Variations op.27; subsequently he employed serial techniques in various ways, notably in Prolana op.33 and the Inventions op.38. The Passacaglia op.45 submits to total serial organization, and at the same time it was his last consciously serial work. In the 1960s, in such works as A l’inconnu op.48 and Patet op.55, his ethnomusicological research began to influence some of his compositional attitudes: rhythm became a primary feature, its simple organization (often based on non-Western formal concepts) presenting contrasts between free movement and patterns that are metrically complex and often long. This stylistic approach was integrated with a 12-note technique in his two operas Belisa (1964) and Usher (1980) and in orchestral and chamber works such as Au fond de la nuit (1968) and the string trio A Dream in Violet (1982). Among the awards he received are the Lange-Müller Stipend (1955), the Anckerske Legat (1956), the KODA Prize (1960), the Carl Nielsen Prize (1965) and awards from Statens Kunstfond (1966, 1970, 1974).


(selective list)

Opera: Belisa (F.G. Lorca, Danish trans.), op.50, 1963–4, Copenhagen, Royal Theatre, 3 Sept 1966; Usher (E.A. Poe, Danish trans.), op.83, Århus, Jutland, 3 Feb 1982

Orch: Sym. Variations, op.27, 1953; Pf Conc. op.31, 1954; Sinfonia I, op.40, 1958; Sinfonia II ‘Susudil’, op.53, 1966; Au fond de la nuit, op.61, 1968; Lux caelestis, op.82, 1978

Choral: Songs, op.43, male vv, 1959; A Song of Mira Bai, op.69, chorus, 3 tpt, perc, 1971; Fortid and Nocturne, op.71, 1971

Chbr: Sonata, op.4, vn, pf, 1946; Pf Trio, op.18, 1950; Prolana, op.33, cl, vn, pf, 1955; Patet, op.55, 9 insts, 1966; Str Qt no.2, op.62, 1969; Shangri-la, op.64, fl, va d’amore, pf, 1969; Rencontres, op.67, vc, perc, 1970; Concertino, op.73, cl, pf trio, 1973; Poème, op.74, accdn, gui, perc, 1973; Partita, op.75, vc, 1974; Trio II, op.77, pf trio, 1976; Nostalgie, op.78, gui, 1976; A Dream in Violet, str trio, 1982

Solo vocal: 4 Songs (W. Blake), op.7, 1947; 2 Prophetic Songs (Blake), op. 16, 1950; 4 Light Songs (M. Gards), op.19, 1951; Schicksalslieder (F. Hölderlin), op.28, S/T, 7 insts, 1953; Alapa-tarana, op.41, Mez, perc, 1959; A l’inconnu, op.48, T/S, 13 insts, 1962; Air, op.76, Mez, a sax, pf, 1976; Planeterne, op.80, Mez, fl, va, gui

Pf: 6 Little Pieces, op.5, 1946; Theme and Variations, op.6, 1947; Krydstogt, op.32, 1954; Medardus, op.35, 1956; 5 Inventions, op.38, 1957; Images, op.51, 1965; 3 études, op.63, 1969; Many Happy Returns, op.70, 1971

Principal publishers: Bote & Bock, Engstrøm & Sødring, Hansen, Moeck, Samfundet til Udgivelse af Dansk Musik, Viking


‘An Aulos in the Danish National Museum’, DAM, v (1966–7), 3–9

‘Om at componere musik’, Berlingske tidendes ‘kronik’ (29 Jan 1967)

‘Notat om “Belisa”’, DMt, xliii (1968), 67–8

Musiketnologie (Copenhagen, 1974)

with J. Jenkins: Music and Musical Instruments in the World of Islam (London, 1976)


E. Weber: ‘Un musicien danois: Poul Rovsing Olsen’, Vie musicale, ii/11 (1952), 4–5

F.S. Petersen: ‘Rovsing Olsen, Poul’, Aschehougs musikleksikon, ed. P. Hamburger (Copenhagen, 1957–8)

S.A. Johansen: ‘Poul Rovsing Olsen: “Au fond de la nuit”’, DMt, xlvi (1971), 274–6

B. Johnsson: ‘To danske klaverkomponister’, Norsk musikktidsskrift, ix (1972), 150–63

‘Rovsing Olsen, Poul’, Kraks blå bog 1974

E. Stockman: ‘Poul Rovsing Olsen (1922–1982)’, YIFMC, xiv (1982), 1–12 [obituary]

T. Kerbage: ‘Poul Rovsing Olsens arabiske inspirationer’, DMt, lviii (1983–4), 92–6

J. Brincker: ‘Brev til en ukendt adressat om en afdød komponist’, DMt, lxvii (1992–3), 84–90 [work list, 91]


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