Conrad Baden - Biography

Conrad Baden

Conrad Baden was born on the 31st August 1908 in the city of Drammen, where his father Olaf Jørgensen was organist in Strømsø Church. Born Jørgensen, he later assumed the older family name Baden.

Baden graduated as organist from the Music Conservatory in Oslo in 1931, and travelled to Germany to study composition at the Leipzig Acadamy. Amongst his teachers were Günter Raphael and Kurt Thomas. From 1934 to 1936 he studied counterpoint under Per Steenberg, where the spirit of Palestrina reigned, and from 1940-42, instrumentation and composition under Bjarne Brustad. In 1950 he travelled to Paris, to study under Jean Rivier and was exposed to the work of Paul Hindemith and French neo-classicism. While in Paris he also attended classes in composition under Honegger.

Badens earliest work is in the National Romantic style, while his sacred compositions from the 30`s demonstrate a close adherance to the Palestrina-inspired style of the period. His work from 1950 onwards was strongly influenced by French neo-classicism, and in the sixties he also started using twelve-tone techniques, with a progressively daring application of dissonance. In the spring of 1965 he travelled to Vienna to meet Hanns Jelinek, the pupil of Schönberg and Berg. Despite decribing Jelinek as "a terrible calculating machine" the visit
undoubtedly contributed to his stylistic emancipation, clearly seen the following year in his only work entirely twelve-tonal in form, Hymnus per alto, flauto, oboe e viola, with the text of the latin Hymn, "Vexilla Regis".

Baden composed in all styles, except opera and electronic music. He was highly productive: Besides being active as organist for 47 years (Strømsgodset, Strømsø and Ris churches) , his work includes a mass for soli, choir and orchestra, 200 songs both soli and for choir, 5 suites and sonatas for piano, motets, and 11 cantatas. Besides his sacred music, his works for orchestra dominate his production: in addition to 5 concertos and shorter works for orchestra, he wrote 6 symphonies.

From 1947 Baden combined his work as organist , which he took very seriously, with a post at the Music Conservatory in Oslo, where he first taught counterpoint and harmony, and later also composition theory.

Baden was also active as a writer. He was music critic for the newspapers Drammens Tidende, Vårt Land and Morgenbladet, as well as contributing editor to Nordisk Musikkkultur, Norsk Kirkemusikk and Norsk Musikktidskrift.

Baden was on the advisory council of The Norwegian Composers Society, (1963-69) founder and chairman of the Drammen Organist Society (1947-52), and chairman of the music section of the Norwegian Theatre and Music-Critics Society(1973-76). In a radio interview in 1967 Baden stated: "My approach to music is conservative inasmuch as I maintain that a work should be constructed upon thematic material, irrespective of style."

In another interview - ten years later - he supplemented the above statement: "Tonal ornamentation and sound in itself comes to nothing. That which is consistantly lacking is melody, line and rhythm. I myself am not able to compose without these fundamental elements."

Conrad Baden died on the 11th June 1989.

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