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Glemte stemmer II

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Fearless pioneer with multifaceted endeavours.

"It was as if some of her youthful glow still surrounded her. She was livelier and more fearless in her form than many others, a bit of an original," is one description of Borghild Holmsen (1865–1938). 

The composer, pianist, educator, library worker, and music critic was a pioneer. She is said to be the first Norwegian woman to give a concert featuring only her own compositions on the programme, and her Sonata for violin and piano is the first chamber music work in the large format written by a Norwegian woman.  

With that sonata, Holmsen broke an invisible barrier because female composers of the time were expected to stick to smaller works for piano and songs. At this concert, you can listen to the result performed by violinist Maria Angelika Carlsen and pianist Ole Christian Haagenrud. 

Despite the positive reception of the sonata and Holmsen's other compositions, applications for public support for further composition studies abroad were rejected. 

Holmsen was also a sought-after pianist and piano teacher, giving concerts in Sweden, Denmark, Germany, England, and the USA. For Harald Sæverud, she was a beloved teacher, and when the library in Bergen began lending out "musicalities" and thus laid the foundation for today's music library, she was a central contributor. 

Photo: Bergen Public Library

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In a mini concert series at Siljustøl, the Bergen International Festival highlights two Bergen composers: Inger Bang Lund and Borghild Holmsen. Both were considered great talents, travelled abroad for further studies, and achieved success both domestically and internationally. Today, their music is rarely performed. 

Arnulf Mattes, professor and head of the Centre for Grieg Research, introduces the composers at both concerts (in Norwegian).

Last Updated: 04/12/2024

Source: Visit Bergen

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