Klaus Egge - Biography

Klaus Egge

Klaus Egge was born on July 19, 1906 in Gransherad in Telemark, and died in 1979 in Oslo. He received his musical education at the Conservatory of Music in Oslo, where he completed his studies as an organist in 1929. Egge continued his musical education in composition with Fartein Valen. He also studied with Professor Walter Gmeindl at The State Academy in Berlin during the period of 1937-38.

"...there is only one way to go if one wants to create something of real quality, and that is: the way of most resistance. With this I mean the thematic work...", stated Klaus Egge on the occasion of his 70th birthday. His musical production can be separated into three periods, even if certain characteristics such as polyphony and a strong rhythmical energy are distinctive elements throughout all of his compositions. Folk music figured as a central source of inspiration until 1945, both in terms of melody and technique in composition. The forming of rhythm and motif are clearly inspired by Norwegian folk dance music, combined with polyphony and classical form. The piano works "Draumkvæsonate" and "Fantasy in Halling", which are considered standard Norwegian repertoire today, date from this first period.

After the war the traces of Norwegian folk music become less distinctive, in exchange for a more universal tonal language. He retained his clean diatonic lines, which were readily combined with crass dissonance. In any case, this period is most characterized by his development of a metamorphic technique, where the motif undergoes repeated transformations.This technique reached a high point with the cello concerto from 1966, in which the first part has been designated "Preludio Metamorfico".

The last period was distinguished by twelve-tone technique. It made it's first appearance in Symphony No.4 "Sinfonia sopra BACH-EGGE" op.30, written as a commission for The Detroit Symphony Orchestra in 1967. He utilized tone-row techniques in Symphony No. 5, a piano concerto and a wind quintet from 1976.

Egge is regarded as one of Norway's leading symphonic composers of the post-war period. Included among his most significant works are five symphonies, three piano concertos, a violin concerto and a cello concerto. Chamber music works also figure prominently; a string quartet, a piano trio, two wind quintets, a violin sonata and a range of piano works. He was also an important vocal composer, and composed songs and choir works; a capella, with piano, and with orchestra. Of the more important choir works "Sveinung Vreim" should be mentioned; a large symphonic epoch written for soloists, choir and orchestra. Egge's works were frequently performed in Europe as well as the USA.

Klaus Egge was a leading personality in Norwegian cultural life. He served on the boards of many music organizations such as The Society of Norwegian Composers, TONO (The Norwegian Performance Right's Society), The Norwegian Artist's Council, The State Music Council and The National Norwegian Music Committee. He was also a member of the boards for The Nordic Composer's Council and the International Music Council. He was a recipient of the state artist's grant from 1949 onwards, and in 1972 received the Norwegian Cultural Council's Prize of Honour. He was also a Commander of St. Olav's Order and of the Icelandic Order of the Falcon.

Translation: Palmyre Pierroux
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