– the first Romantic with a special ‘Danish’ singing style

Peter Heise is the secret weapon of the Danish Romantic movement; if his romances had not been in Danish, they might be sung all over the world today.

Peter Heise’s mother died during his birth, and his father never really recovered from that tragedy. The childhood home remained a sombre place for many years. The family were mainly civil servants, and the expectation was that Heise would follow a similar career. 

However, Heise wanted to be a composer. At the age of 18 he attended lessons in music theory with A.P. Berggreen, and showed an unusual interest in folk ballads. Niels W. Gade became his mentor shortly after Gade’s return from his years as a star in Leipzig’s music life.

Peter Heise himself also travelled to Leipzig in 1852, with the spirit of Mendelssohn hovering over the waters. German song composers such as Robert Schumann (1810-1856) and Richard Wagner (1813-1883) were still alive at the time. Danish composers such as Gade and Heise found that they preferred Schumann’s tradition-conscious style to Wagner’s progressive expression. 

In 1857 Peter Heise became a music teacher at Sorø Academy, with the hymn writer B.S. Ingemann (1789-1862) as a good colleague. Soon, however, he no longer needed the money: In 1859 he married into the Hage family, who were well off. His father-in-law commissioned the giant painting Den grundlovgivende rigsforsamling (‘The Danish Constituent Assembly’) from the painter Constantin Hansen that same year and placed it in the living room – where it could be viewed for a fee!

The composer and his wife lived for the rest of their lives in a country house north of Copenhagen. They lived a comfortable life, with frequent trips to Paris and Rome in particular, and reportedly with childlessness as their only sorrow. A national and cultural venture, the Society for The Publication of Danish Music – today identical with the publishing house Edition-S – was founded in the couple’s garden.

At the time of his unexpected death at the age of 49, Peter Heise was in the midst of an exciting development: He had discovered how to write musical drama, with the opera Drot og marsk (‘King and Marshal’) from 1877 as the successful result. Moreover, he had allowed his songs to grow into “scenes” with well-composed melodies and sophisticated accompaniment. His romances from the 1870s remain some of Denmark’s very first art songs composed specifically for Danish diction. 

Søren Schauser

Gudruns sorg1Dengang var Gudrun beredt til DødenDen ældre Edda
Gudruns sorg2Hos sad Jarlers ædle HustruerDen ældre Edda
Gudruns sorg3Da sagde HerborgDen ældre Edda
Gudruns sorg4Da sagde GullrøndDen ældre Edda
Gudruns sorg5Engang Gudrun end ham skuedDen ældre Edda
Gudruns sorg6Da sagde GudrunDen ældre Edda
Digte fra Middelalderen7Skjønne fru BeatrizThor Lange
Erotiske sange4SkoveensomhedEmil Aarestrup
Farlige drømme1Du lægger dig ned en AftenstundHolger Drachmann
Farlige drømme2Hvor Engen har foldet, ved Mosens BredHolger Drachmann
Farlige drømme3Det blinker med PerlerHolger Drachmann
Farlige drømme4Saa lad Sangen i Salene bruseHolger Drachmann
Farlige drømme5I Skoven er der saa stilleHolger Drachmann
Farlige drømme6Den blomstrende Sommer blev kjædet til HøstHolger Drachmann
Aases sange1Det var sig HumlerankenChristian Richardt
Aases sange2Jeg kjender af Navn kun GuldetChristian Richardt
Aases sange3Jeg beder for hverChristian Richardt
Dyvekes sange1Skal altid fæste mit Haar under HueHolger Drachmann
Dyvekes sange2Ak, hvem der havde en HueHolger Drachmann
Dyvekes sange3Hvad vil den MandHolger Drachmann
Dyvekes sange4Vildt, vildt, vildt suser BlæstenHolger Drachmann
Dyvekes sange5Næppe tør jeg taleHolger Drachmann
Dyvekes sange6Det stigerHolger Drachmann
Dyvekes sange7Se, nu er Sommeren kommenHolger Drachmann