The Strauss of Scandinavia

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The Strauss of Scandinavia

The Danish composer and conductor Hans Christian Lumbye (1810-1874) has been associated with the Tivoli Amusement Park in Copenhagen from the beginning, when the park opened in 1843 because of his popular concerts there. People called him the Strauss of Scandinavia.

Lundbye was born in Copenhagen but because his father, a military officer, was stationed first in Jutland and later in Odense, already as a child he moved to the Danish provinces. In Odense, he took his first genuine lessons in music and learned to play the violin and trumpet as well as having music theory lessons. Early on he began to write songs and marches. By the time he was 14, he had managed to land a job as the hornist in the local regiment orchestra. Later he asked for transfer to Copenhagen and returned to his native city as a 19-year-old.

The Strauss of Scandinavia
Hans Christian Limbye. Courtesy: Det Kongelige Bibliotek, Copenhagen

There, in Copenhagen in 1829 he was entrusted with a position as a trumpeter in the Royal Horse Guards. This was also his musical tipping point as he first heard the music of Joseph Lanner and Johann Strauss (father).
When Lumbye was off duty, he played dance music. He also worked as a composer, wrote a lot of dance music and became a popular band leader for Copenhagen’s upper class.

Through the 1830s, alongside his Royal Horse Guard responsibility, Lumbye was a hard-working member of Copenhagen’s Town Musicians’ Ensemble. His earliest surviving dance compositions originate from this decade.

In 1839, he assembled his own orchestra. He was inspired to take this step after having witnessed a series of concerts in Copenhagen presented by a music company from Steiermark in Austria, where Johann Strauss the Elder’s and Joseph Lanner’s latest dance melodies were played for the very first time in Scandinavia.

With his first Concert à la Strauss at the fashionable Raus Hotel (the present Hôtel d’Angleterre) in Copenhagen on 4 February 1840, Lumbye seriously ushered in his lifelong occupation as Denmark’s – and Scandinavia’s – uncontested leading composer of music in a similar style and people began to call him the Strauss of Scandinavia.

The Strauss of Scandinavia
The Coincert Hall in Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen

Audiences loved his music, and this was one reason Lumbye’s concerts in the Tivoli amusement park were well frequented and very successful. Lumbye was involved in the park since its opening in 1843 as music director of the concert hall’s orchestra and Tivoli’s resident composer. The Tivoli became the steady and definitive base for his long and illustrious career as composer and conductor.

Related: Christmas Wonderland in Copenhagen

In winter, when the Tivoli was closed, Lumbye’s orchestra played in Copenhagen’s theatres or toured through Denmark and abroad.

The Strauss of Scandinavia
Lumbye and his Orchestra. Courtesy: Kongelige bibliotek, Copenhagen

Lumbye wrote more than 700 pieces over the course of the next thirty years and is one of the few Danish composers whose music is popular all over the world. Almost one hundred of his melodies are named after women.

In 1872, Lumbye had to quit his work as director and conductor because he was weakened and deaf, a sickness probably caused by one of several boat trips with his family for his father’s military transfers.

The Strauss of Scandinavia
The Strauss of Scandinavia, one of many records with music of H. C. Lumbye

In May 1873, he conducted his famous “Champagne Galop” for the last time – seated. Hans Christian Lumbye died on March 20, 1874.

A superb collection of 76 minutes of his music, The Strauss of Scandinavia, offers the composer’s best music, including the unforgettable Copenhagen Steam Railway Galop, Cannons Galop, Memories from Vienna and the Champagne Galop.

The Strauss of Scandinavia, written by Tor Kjolberg

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