Ole Olsen - Biography

Ole Olsen was born in Hammerfest in Northern Norway on July 4 1850. Bereft of his mother when he was quite young, as a child he received soog music training from his father, Iver Olsen, an accomplished amateur musician and organist in the local church. Young Ole substitued for his father there as early as the age of seven. Iver Olsen was also a clever craftsman og rhymed verse, and his son likewise became a deft versifier. The most important result of the latter’s poetic endeavors was that he supplied the librettos for his operas.

Although Ole accumulated practical musical experience at a very early age, his formal training began in 1865: he had been sent to Trondheim to become an apprentice to a craftsman, but at the same time he studied piano, organ, and harmony from the Lindeman brothers Fredrik and Just. After two years he abandoned his plans to become a craftsman in order to concentrate on the organ. Just Lindeman, who was the organist in the Trondheim cathedral, became his primary mentor and Olsen soon began to substitute for him from time to time. The German-born architect H. E. Schirmer, who was then supervising the restoration of the cathedral, happened to hear him play one day and was impressed. As a result, Schirmer, who was interested in music and was also an old friend of Heinrich K. Schleinitz, director of the Leipzig conservatory, made arrangements for the young man to go to Leipzig.

Olsen attended the conservatory from 1870 to 1874, during which time he received instruction in composition from Oskar Paul. While still a student he composer hi Symphony in G major (the orchestration was completed in 1875) and began working on his first opera, Stig Hvide, which relates the story of a Danish noblewoman.

In the autumn of 1874 Olsen became a music teacher in Oslo, and except for a few trips abroad – especially in 1881-83 – this was to be his home for the rest of his life. In 1879 he married Marie Hals, daughter of the renowned piano manufacturer Karl Hals. During Johan Svendsen’s absence from Oslo in 1877-80 Olsen filled in as conductor of the Music Society orchestra. IN 1884 he became conductor of a military band, and from 1899 to 1920 he was a music supervisor in the public schools. Ole Olsen died in 1927.

From A History of Norwegian Music by Nils Grinde,
translated by William H. Halverson and Leland B. Sateren
by permission of the University of Nebraska Press.
Copyright 1991 by the University of Nebraska Press

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