Ole Bull – Quartet for One Violin

Posted on December 29th, 2009 by

I have been fascinated by Ole Bull for years. Today (15th August 2012), I have been thinking about his ‘Quartet for One Violin’, written in Dublin in 1837. This seems to be a work that he may have played with the bow beneath the violin.  I will post a recording of this later, but to begin with, here is a workshop recording made with conventional playing.

Ole Bull-Quartet for One violin (Dublin 1837) 

Peter Sheppard Skaerved-Violin (Workshop Recording New York City August 15th Amsterdam 2012)


Ole Bull Capriccio 1839

World Premiere Recording 

Bull’s Manuscript, complete with missed accidentals!

Peter Sheppard Skaerved-Violin (Stradivari 1699)

The Young Ole Bull

Engineer/producer-Jonathan Haskell


Ole Bull was profounding affected by hearing Paganini in Paris in 1832. However, of all of the violinists influenced by the Genoan, pursued the most original musical and virtuosic path. He was the first great player to successfully incorporate traditional ‘folk’ playing, in his case, the hardanger tradition, into violin playing. This is clearly audible in this tiny album leaf, which is effectively a meeting between the sound worlds of ‘Mollergutten’, the most famous of hardanger players, and Paganini’s extremist virtuosity.


Joseph Joachim on Ole Bull

Extracts from Joseph Joachim letters

  1. To Clara Schumann [HANOVER, December 12, 1860]-It is only partly owing to me that Ole Bull is playing. I wanted to get permission for him to give a con cert in the Theatre and mentioned it to HM; but the king would not hear of anything but that he should be invited for the concert, and although I imagined at first that Ole Bull himself would rather play in theatre, and said so several times, etiquette did not me did not permit me to oppose the King any longer, as it might have been interpreted as a kind of jealousy on my part. The Norwegian interests me more than I expected : he has remarkable power over his instrument, a very fine tone, and plenty of vitality, It is true I have only heard him play, in a room, fragments of some very beautiful little Norwegian folk-songs, of the simplest description. . . .
  2. To Hermann Grimm [HANOVER, about December 22, 1860] –Ole Bull has been here over a week, and as a man, I like him very much. We have several times discussed a two days’ visit to Berlin to see you both, and I think we shall carry it our…Ole Bull played at a concert the other day, and on Sunday at Court together with Frau Schumann. We may hear him once more in the theatre. I like his playing better in a room than in public, because, in private, he often selects very original Norwegian melodies. His tone is pleasantly soft and full of feeling…
It was Ole Bull who first faithfully transcribed Hardanger  playing-this would have tremendous ramifications for Edvard Grieg
25th March 2012. Statue of Halvorsen outside the National Theatre Oslo. On my way to play a recital at the Norwegian Music Academy; so, coals to Newcastle notwithstanding, I played Larsen’s Halling as an encore.

I was given the first edition of Halvorsen’s faithful transcriptions of Slaater when I was a teenager, and they have been on and off the music desk ever since.  It took me a long time to get to grips with how groundbreaking these were. I will write more on this later but today August 2nd) I will simply append Giboen’s Bridal March.

Giboens Bruremarsch (Scordatura A-D-A-E

Workshop recording-St Paul Minnesota 2nd August 

Bruremarsch fra Telemarken 

Kivlemoyerne. Gangar. (Scordatura F C A E) 

Bruremarsch efter Moellergutten-Traditional Hardanger Melody 

Traditional. As performed by Knud Dahle and transcribed by Johan Halvorsen.
Published by Peters Verlag as ‘Norwegische Bauerntaenze'(Slaatter) -‘wie diesselben auf der norwegischen Bauernfiedel gespielt werden’

Peter Sheppard Skaerved-Violin (Stradivari 1698 Joachim) (Scordatura A E A E)
Outtake 29th June 2010
Engineer-Jonathan Haskell-Astounding Sounds

For a linked Danish Project click on THE FOG IS LIFTING

Halvorsen to Edvard Grieg: “Today I saved two folk dances from oblivion. They aren’t so easy to transcribe. Small jumps and trills like a small trout in a torrent…Sometimes he (Knut Dale) used ornaments, a mixture of 2/4 and 6/8 time, that made me laugh aloud for joy”.

Knut Dahle
Johan Halvorsen, with a Hardangerfedel