Ole Olsen (musician)

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Ole Olsen
NFB03270 Ole Olsen.jpg
Ole Olsen, photographed by Gustav Borgen in 1909
Background information
Born4 July 1850
Hammerfest, Norway
Died4 November 1927 (age 77)
Oslo, Norway
Occupation(s)Composer, conductor, organist, pianist, violinist
InstrumentsPiano, pipe organ, violin

Ole Olsen (4 July 1850 – 4 November 1927) was a Norwegian organist, composer, conductor and military musician.


Olsen was born in Hammerfest, in the county of Finnmark. His mother died when he was young. His father was Iver Olsen, a craftsman and an amateur musician who played the organ at the local church. From a young age Olsen learnt to play the piano and the violin. At the age of five he composed his first small piece, and by the age of seven he sometimes stood in for his father playing the church pipe organ.

In 1865 Olsen went to Trondheim as apprentice to a craftsman. He also studied composition and the organ from Fredrick and Just Lindeman, and sometimes substituted for Just as the organist in the Trondheim cathedral. In 1870, having given up his apprenticeship, he moved to Leipzig where he studied under Oscar Paul at the music conservatory until 1874. There he wrote his Symphony in G major, and began his opera Stig Hvide.

In 1874 he became a teacher in Christiania (now Oslo), where he spent most of the rest of his life. He conducted the Christiania Artisans' Choral Society from 1876–1880, the Music Society orchestra from 1877–1880, and the freemason's orchestra from 1894–1908. From 1884 he was the music director of the Akershus 2nd Brigade. From 1899–1920 he was a music inspector.

He had married Marie Hals, the daughter of piano manufacturer Karl Hals, in 1879. He died in Oslo in 1927.


Close-up of Ole Olsen's bust in Hammerfest
Ole Olsen's monument in Hammerfest on Constitution Day, 2007

Olsen's operas were influenced by Richard Wagner. Another strong influence was the traditional Joik form of song, as he was involved in collecting folk tunes while in the military. These influenced the large number of military marches he composed, and the nationalist tradition was also represented in his stage works.

His compositions include:

  • operas
    • Stig Hvide (1872–76)
    • Lajla (1893)
    • Stallo (1902)
    • Klippeøerne (1904–10)
  • oratorio
    • Nidaros (1897)
  • cantatas
    • Ludvig Holberg (1884)
    • Griffenfeldt (1897)
    • Broderbud (n.d.)
  • male chorus
    • Fanevakt (n.d.)
    • I jotunheimen (n.d.)
  • symphonic poems
    • Asgårdsreien (1878)
    • Alfedans
  • orchestral
    • Symphony in G major
    • Petite Suite for piano and strings (1902)
    • Trombone Concerto (1905)
    • Væringetog
    • Ritornell
    • Romance
    • Tarantelle
  • others
    • Svein Uræd (1890)
    • King Erik XIV (1882)
    • piano pieces
    • military marches


Recordings on YouTube[edit]

From CDs listed above
From different CDs
Live performances


  • Grinde, Nils. 1991. Ole Olsen - Biography Music Information Centre Norway, 1991 (accessed 28 August 2005)
  • The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, edited by Stanley Sadie. London: Macmillan (2001). vol. 18, p. 40.

External links[edit]