Concert Preview Blog
Stories and Songs from the USA and Norway
Streaming live via Music Center of the Northwest
Friday, February 5, 2021 - noon
Folk songs, hymns, and ballads have inspired composers for centuries. This recital of piano music explores pieces from both the USA and Norway that are rich in stories and traditions.
Legende by Signe Lund (1868-1950)
Meditation by Signe Lund
Meditation - "On Jordan's Stormy Banks" by Steven Luksan
Meditation - "Beach Spring" by Steven Luksan
Meditation - "Come Thou Fount" by Steven Luksan
Romanza by Clara Kathleen Rogers (1844-1931)
Selections from "Norwegian Folksongs and Dances" by Agathe Backer Grøndahl (1847-1907)
III. Laat i Fjellet
IV. Ulabrands Yndlingshalling
About the Composers
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Opinionated and Unafraid
Signe Lund was born in Norway in 1868. Her mother was a talented amateur pianist and composer, but she was discouraged from pursuing a career in music. Instead, she entered into an unhappy marriage and gave birth to 5 children over the course of 6 years. Finally, at the age of 28, she convinced her husband to let her go study music in Germany.
Leaving behind her 3 surviving children in Norway, and with a recommendation from none other than the great Edvard Grieg in hand, Lund studied in Berlin and then Paris, and eventually taught at a college in North Dakota. She became very politically active for socialist and anti-war causes in the USA. Her activism around socialist causes also got her into substantial trouble when the German National Socialists (Nazis) came to power in 1930s Germany and subsequently invaded Norway in 1940. She eventually lost her US citizenship and lived out the rest of her life in Norway.
Legende was her most popular composition during her lifetime, but when it was published in 1896 she sold rights for the music to her publisher. They gave her a one-time payment of 50 Norwegian crowns for this music (the equivalent of a couple hundred dollars in today's money), despite the fact that many copies of this piece were sold around the world.
Clara Kathleen Rogers
From England to New England
Clara Kathleen Rogers (neé Barnett) was born in London in 1844, but lived a childhood full of musical adventures throughout Europe. Her father was a composer and her mother a singer. Clara chose to follow in the footsteps of both, though she is primarily remembered as an opera singer. She eventually settled in Boston, where she performed and taught as a voice teacher at the New England Conservatory.
Romanza is a substantial piece of music for solo piano. The lyrical main theme is always presented in the key of F minor. Various contrasting episodes carry the music away from this key, but the main melody always returns, always stronger, as the music builds to a power climax.
Agathe Backer Grøndahl
"No artist has walked purer paths than she." -E. Grieg
Born in Norway in 1847, Grøndahl is perhaps one of the greatest voices from the so-called "Golden Age" of Norwegian Romanticism. Along with the music of Edvard Grieg, Grøndahl's compositions capture the nationalism and artistic currents that were so in vogue during the second half of the 19th century.
Grøndahl is remembered both as a pianist and a composer. Signe Lund, in her memoir, wrote the following after witnessing Grøndahl perform a recital: "Imagine if I could someday come close to being so talented at composing? But it is certainly hopeless."
Wherever she went she was praised for her ability at the keyboard, whether playing the role of an orchestral soloist or a member of a chamber ensemble, she always adapted her style of playing to fit the situation.
As a composer, she is remembered for her piano pieces and her songs. Her settings of traditional Norwegian folksongs and dances sparkle with creativity and authenticity.
Composer and Pianist
Steven Luksan is a composer, pianist, and educator based in Seattle. Steven is an advocate for the performance of new and uncommon compositions (especially those by Scandinavian and American composers), and for the performance of chamber music in intimate settings. He is the founder and artistic director of the Saltwater Music Series (Des Moines, WA), a concert series dedicated to performances of local and off-the-beaten-path chamber music.
Steven's compositions are influenced by folk traditions, jazz, minimalism, and the music of his favorite composers from the early 20th century. His compositions include pieces for solo piano, chamber music including viola, oboe, or flute, and many art songs.
The three pieces on this program are all inspired by hymns that Steven heard while growing up. Steven's grandfather and grandmother were both church musicians, and he strives to carry their love of music in to the future.
by Signe Lund
by Agathe Backer Grøndahl