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Friedrich Kuhlau

composer
1786
1832

Kuhlau is one of the most important figures in Danish music at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Kuhlau, was German-born and came to Denmark to avoid conscription in the German army in the war against Napoleon. Kuhlau had a passionate, dramatic artistic personality, and was greatly preoccupied with the contemporary music of Beethoven. For this reason among others he was never quite accepted by the Danish musical establishment, and he had to live in precarious financial circumstances throughout his life. The bulk of his works are pieces for one or two musicians, and of a level of difficulty suited to able amateurs. Kuhlau was obliged to write innumerable works of this type, often with flute or piano as the solo instrument, for financial reasons. He expressed more of his personality in ambitious works like his piano quartets, his only string quartet, the piano concerto, operas and theatre music. Kuhlau was immortalized in Danish cultural history by his music for the play Elverhøj (The Elf Mound) which became the first true work of Danish National Romanticism, although it was disguised as a tribute to absolute monarchy. In the music Kuhlau made very effective use of Danish and Swedish folk tunes, and the play allows the Renaissance King Christian IV to effect the denouement like a deus ex machina to the strains of the Royal Anthem. To this day it is Kuhlau's version of this melody which is the definitive arrangement.