Harald Sæverud – second string quartet
(17. April 1897 – 27. March 1992)
Harald Sæverud was born in Bergen, the son of a respected and modestly wealthy business man and a devout mother. When Sæverud was 12 years old, disaster hit the household: his father, with his business partners, was found guilty of tax evasion and became bankrupt. He was sent to jail for three months. It was at this time that young Harald began to write music, perhaps as an inner escape from grim reality. His first formal studies took place at the Bergen conservatoire where his main teacher was the pianist and composer Borghild Holmsen (1865- 1938). By the time he was 17 Sæverud was working on his first symphony, often skipping school in order to do so.
Between 1920 and 1922 Sæverud studied at the Berlin Hochschule. While there a wealthy friend hired the Berlin Philharmonic for the first performance of Overtura Apassionata.
Later in life Sæverud would claim that he learned nothing in Berlin, and that his only teachers were Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven. However, letters from the period show that he did in fact learn a lot in Berlin, where he studied with Friederich Koch (1862 – 1927).
Upon returning to Norway in 1922 he slowly built a reputation as one of the country’s most promising young composers, making ends meet as a music critic and by giving piano lessons. He received unexpected encouragement from Carl Nielsen (1865 –1931), who wrote Sæverud a letter expressing his great enthusiasm for his Five Capricci for piano, op. 1.
Harmonien (today known as Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra) would eventually become Sæverud’s main expressive outlet. The ensemble went on to premiere many of his orchestral works. …
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