Agathe Backer-Grøndahl

Agathe Backer-Grøndahl

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(1847 - 1907)

The Norwegian composer Agathe Backer Grøndahl was born in Holmestrand, near Oslo, on December 1st, 1847. Her parents, amateur musicians, gave her her first piano lessons. After studying in Oslo, she went to Berlin, at the age of eighteen, for further studies at the Neue Akademie der Tonkunst with the famous piano teacher Theodor Kullak (1818-1882). She gave her first concert in Oslo in 1869, performing works by Liszt, Chopin and Beethoven and her own Andante for piano and orchestra. She then studied composition with Richard Wuerst in Berlin and piano with Hans von Bülow in Italy and Franz Liszt in Weimar. From 1872 onwards, Agathe Backer, who was a friend of Edvard Grieg and the violinist Ole Bull, acquired a great renown as a pianist in Scandinavian countries.

Her marriage in 1875 with the choral conductor Olaus Andreas Grøndahl and the birth of her children interrupted her concert career for eight years. She started touring again in 1883, playing regularly in Stockholm, and appearing in 1889 in Paris and in 1889 and 1890 in London with great success. Bernard Shaw, also music critic under the name Corno di Bassetto, liked her playing enormously, and ranked her among the greatest pianists of her time. From 1889 onwards, Agathe Backer- Grøndahl dedicated herself more and more to composing, interrupting once more her concert career. When she started giving concerts again, from 1898 to 1901, she played mostly her own pieces. She went on composing until her death in Oslo in 1907, aged sixty.

Translated by Michael Cook