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Summaries of papers from previous international HCA conferences
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Summaries of papers from previous international HCA conferences

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Summary of Hans Kuhn:

"H. C. Andersen i det 19. århundredes danske sangbøger".

This paper has been published in Andersen og Verden, Odense 1993.

Hans Christian Andersen in 19th Century Danish Songbooks

Hans Kuhn

(summary for pages 101-14)

The19th century was in Denmark, as elsewhere, truly a singing century, with singing in the home, in clubs and societies and on festive and patriotic occasions creating a tremendous demand for songbooks. In the first half of the century this demand was mainly met by commercial publishers or booksellers, and their main sources of material were the operas, singspiels and vaudevilles performed at the Royal Theatre and elsewhere. Gradually, individuals and groups with an ideological axe to grind took their place: politically active students, journalists of the Liberal or Pan-Scandinavian persuasion, and, increasingly, teachers and priests gripped by the Grundtvigian renewal. By the 1860s, the latter group was the dominant one, and commercial publishers had practically vanished, while the Liberals no longer needed battle songs once they had gained power. The two Slesvig Wars of 1848-50 and 1864 created an enormous demand for patriotic and morale-boosting songs.

Andersen's fortune and popularity as a writer of songs was very much affected by changing fashions and demands. As early as 1829 his "Det døende Barn" was included in a school anthology, and throughout the 1830s he was well represented in songbooks, mainly by songs from his works for the theatre. In the 1840s the commercial songbooks still included a considerable number of Andersen songs, while the new "ideological" songbooks had little use for him: Both Miniatyr-Ariebog of 1837-41 and A. Caen's Folke-Visebog of 1846-50 had 55 Andersen songs each, while in the Liberal and Pan-Scandinavian songbooks he was rarely represented by more than a couple of songs. In the 1850s we find 62 Andersen songs (a third of the contents) in the second volume of Kaiser's Den lille Sanger, thanks to the plundering of three Andersen vaudevilles of 1849-50, and the few other songbooks of that decade drawing on the theatre still included quite a few of his songs; otherwise he was only represented by some patriotic pieces. By the 1860s, he was firmly established as an author of texts for children, and by then he had had something of a comeback with songs for or about children; sometimes, he was even credited with other authors' children's songs, e.g. Krossing's "Ride, ride ranke" or Ingemann's "Stork, Stork, Langebeen".

In view of the above it is not surprising that the songs found most frequently in songbooks of the period 1830-70 are patriotic songs. Foremost was a song still popular today, "I Danmark er jeg født, der har jeg hjemme", in the 19th century sung to Henrik Rung's melody. Rung launched the song in Skandinavisk Selskab in the last year of the First Slesvig War; in the 20th century it is better known with Poul Schierbeck's setting. It is not a war song but a lyrical declaration of love for the smiling Danish countryside Andersen knew so well from happy summer days in Zealand and Funen.

His second most popular song was occasioned by the outbreak of the war in 1848 and is called "Den Frivillige" (The Volunteer). It expresses both the ardour and impatience and the disquiet of a young volunteer eager to join the army but, contrary to some other soldiers' songs of the period, it is, as in the first song, an individual "I" rather than a collective "we" who speaks. The melody by Kunzen, a trifle too gracious to fit the text, originated in a royal birthday piece of 1796 but had been previously used for a song about the brave fighters of the Battle of Copenhagen Harbour in 1801.

Third on the frequency list is a song about another critical moment in the history of Denmark, the Siege of Copenhagen in 1659. It had already been printed in Andersen's Digte of 1830, but only when it was included in a collection of Fædrelandshistoriske Digte in 1836 and was provided with a melody by Berggreen in 1840 did it start its career as a song. The rather insipid melody may be the reason why it did not survive into the 20th century.

With the fourth most frequent song we move into Andersen's real domain as a song writer, the theatrical world. In his dramatization of a Walter Scott novel, Festen paa Kenilworth which, with Weyse's music, was first performed at the beginning of 1836, there was a song about America as a fabulous land of plenty in which Andersen's puckish sense of humour and empathy for a childlike greediness for goodies were fused in a charming piece for soloist, interjector and chorus, "Brødre, meget langt herfra". Weyse's congenial music easily survived the transposition from orchestra to piano accompaniment, and his often reprinted collection of Romancer og Sange contributed to its continued popularity.

The fifth most popular song, "Moderen og Barnet", represents the fairy-tale writer who keeps humour and sentimentality in delicate balance. "Hist, hvor Veien slaaer en Bugt" is not a child's role song as "Det døende Barn" was, but a song about a child's familiar world: a loving mother, the dilapidated but cosy little house, the familiar animals. J. C. Bauer's melody was suitably memorable and simple and happy enough to enable the song to remain an evergreen long after Andersen's time.

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