Denmark Music and Cinema
Music. – Throughout the first half of the 20th century, Copenhagen continued to be the only great center of Danish musical life: this is where the royal opera and ballet of ancient tradition, the Tivoli orchestra conducted from 1909 to 1935, are based by F. Schnedler-Petersen, the Conservatory of Music (1866), the Society of Young Composers (1920), since 1923 the Danish section of the ISCM (International Society for Contemporary Music) and editor of the musicology magazine Dansk musiktidsskrift (1925).
A decisive impulse, at the end of the 1920s, came from the Danish Radio, and particularly from the activities of the Radio Symphony Orchestra. The first conservatory outside the capital arose in 1927 in Århus, where a stable symphony orchestra was also active (1935). However, only after the Second World War did we witness a real decentralization of musical institutions: new symphony orchestras, opera houses (in particular those of Århus and Odense), other conservatories (Odense, Ålborg and Esbjerg) and schools arose in the main cities elementary school of music.
In the first decades of the 20th century the Danish music scene dominated by some composers who remained in the context of the great influence exerted on national music by KA Nielsen (1865-1931): among these we should mention in particular P. Schierbeck (1888-1949), J. Bentzon (1897-1951) and F. Høffding (b. 1899).
On the other hand, V. Holmboe (b. 1909), author of nine Symphonies, one of the most significant figures after that of Nielsen, refers to the most current lesson of Bartók and Stravinskij; in these same years NV Bentzon (b. 1919) refers to Schönberg and Hindemith. Starting from the 1940s, together with Holmboe and Bentzon, the figure of HD Koppel (b. 1908) became established, playing a leading role in the wider sphere of Scandinavian music. The influence of French neo-classicism was affected by K. Riisager (1897-1974), J. Jersild (b. 1913) and PR Olsen (b. 1922).
The first Danish composer to take a systematic interest in serial music was G. Berg (b.1909), who studied for a long time in Paris and was strongly influenced by OM Messiaen’s technique. His work was rediscovered in the early 1950s, in a climate of prevailing influence exerted by post-Webernian serialism on some composers born around the mid-1920s: among these A. Borup-Jorgensen (b.1924), J. Maegaard (b. 1926), B. Lewkowitch (b. 1927). Among the youngest are I. Nørholm (b. 1931), P. Gudmundsen-Holmgreen (b. 1932) and P. Nørgaard (b. 1932).
Starting from the Sixties, and particularly in the work of P. Nørgaard, the need, common to many composers, to overcome the schemes of serialism, opening up to that plurality of styles and orientations that still characterizes the production becomes more evident. Danish music. Among the younger composers we should mention in particular K. Aage Rasmussen (b. 1947), P. Ruders (b. 1949) and H. Habrahmsen (b. 1952).
Cinema. – Already at the beginning of cinema, the Denmark becomes one of the most developed countries from an industrial and production point of view. The first Danish film, made between 1896 and 1897, is a very short documentary entitled Kørsel med gr ø nlandske hunde (“Greenland dogs pulling a sled”), filmed by the photographer P. Elfelt. Elfelt himself between 1897 and 1914 made more than two hundred documentaries, and was the author of the first fiction film: Henrettelsen (“Execution”), the story of a mother led to the gallows for killing her own children. At the same time as the documentary activity, a fictional production is developedwhich has few comparisons in the history of cinema. In fact, during the 1910s, thanks above all to the productions of Nordisk Films Kompagni, Danish cinema was among the first in the world to successfully counter the monopoly of the French production house Pathé. Five are the most important filmmakers: A. Blom, A. Lind, U. Gad, B. Christensen, F. Holger-Madsen.
The latter signs works full of mysticism and occult spiritual problems (such as Pax aeterna, 1916), while Blom and Gad prefer melodrama and bourgeois drama. Lind’s mention should be made of Den hride slavehandel (“The Trafficking of White Slaves”, 1910), in which some of the most recurring themes of Nordic cinema make their appearance: sensuality, the sense of sin, the exploration of troubled worlds or corrupt. More attentive to the inner dramas of the human soul is Christensen, known above all for a powerful and incisive work such as Häxan (Witchcraft through the centuries, 1921).
After 1917, the year of the creation of the German UFA, the Danish film industry starts a slow and inexorable decline, ending up assuming an absolutely marginal role in the European panorama after 1929, the year of Nordisk’s bankruptcy. However, in parallel with this period of decline, and in a completely independent way with respect to the contemporary national production, C. Th. Dreyer, the greatest Danish director and one of the undisputed masters of the history of cinema, carries out his activity (see App. III, i, p. 501; IV, i, p. 612).
Only at the end of the Eighties Danish cinema returned to recover a good international resonance with Babettes gaestebud (Babette’s Lunch, 1987), a work by G. Axel which in 1988 obtained the Oscar for best foreign film, and with Pelle Erobreren (Skin to conquer the world, 1988), ” Palme d’Or ” at Cannes. Apart from the case of Axel, between the thirties and the eighties very few authors had managed to emerge, among which, all working after the death of Dreyer (1968), should be remembered Carlsen, Malmors, Stangerup and Brandt. Their works are moreover oriented towards a genre cinema, especially the fantastic and the detective, even if there is no lack of social problems.