Back to Lysøen.

Posted on April 16th, 2013 by

An astonishingly colourful and enormous (undated) posters for Ole Bull’s concerts in the USA, found in an envelope at Lsyoen today (17 4 2013)



My great friend and collaborator Sadie Harrison has written me ‘Return to Lysøen’. Well, I have returned, and the first thing that I did was to play the work, back in this lovely room. Just a workshop recording, but playing looking out over the water, enraptured by the glorious architectural counterpoints of the room.

Sadie Harrison-Return to Lysøen (2012). For more on Sadie’s music, go to:LINK

My visist was made possible my the great generosity and insight shown to me by the Avdelingsdirektør of Lysoen, Berit Høgheim-all through my time there she was indefatigable in finding new avenues of research, tea, and fruit!

With the Avdelingsdirektør of Lysoen Berit Høgheim

Lysoen 17 4 13

April 16th 2113 My first day back at Lysøen: I have been desperate to return since my first visit in October 2012(see Three Days In Bergen)

For now, just objects from this first day.

Ole Bull has such a long reach, from present to the past. It came as something of a shock to find his reach back to Beethoven’s collaborators. Franz Clement, who premiered the Beethoven Violin concerto, dedicated a work for solo violin to him, which I hope to see later this week. For more on Clement, go to-Barbe-Bleu

16th April: I have just arrived in Norway for 4 days of research and concerts. Today it was back to Lysøen. With Ole Bull’s instruments and music in the most wonderful music room I know.


Found in a Bull family Album at Lysoen today, the unveiling of the Stephen Sinding Monument to Bull in Bergen 1901


Vive la Comedienne-a simple dance tune, very much like a Fyn-ish ‘Hopsa’.


Ole Bull?-‘Vive La Comedienne’ Peter Sheppard Skaerved-Violin 16 04 2013



I was delighted to find one of Ole Bull’s flat bridges. Seen next to a Quarter, for scale.


Ole Bull’s tuning fork-a lovely A=441


In a letter, Ole Bull discusses the even, wide grain, on his Guaneri…found today in a pie of papers at Lysoen


A selection of Tailpieces, which I have attempted to arrange in chrononlogical order, beginning with the early 18th Century example top left


A familiar tool on the luthier’s work pench today-dish for fine retouching




A reminder, that Vibrato was very much an embellishment in the 19th Century (whereas portamenti were the very stuff of string playing and singing). Note the phrase marked Dolente-the vibrato (often referred to as ‘tremolo’) indications over the octaves. Untitled Ole Bull fragment, Lysoen 16 04 2013

Ole Bull-a realisation of the introduction to Mozart’s ‘Dissonance’ Quartet
One of the loose sheets of manuscript in Bull’s hand is immediately recognisable as the famously enigmatic opening to Mozart’s C Major Quartet K 465. The harmonic ‘writhing’ (as Colin Davis would put it) of the opening to this piece led to it being known as the ‘Dissonance’. I would imagine that Bull was fascinated by this. He was a lifelong admirer of Mozart’s chamber music, but more than that, was a musical ‘inventor’ in every way. But it is perhaps important to have a mind that the use of ‘full scores’ to rehearse chamber music was a late 19th Century invention; indeed the first Partitur of this work did not appear until 1882, part of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozarts Werke, Serie XIV: Quartette für Streichinstrumente (pp.186-205), published by Breitkopf & Härtel. A well-documented result of this was that passages of harmonic complexity often caused dispute in read-throughs. Beethoven was once found at breakfast after a chamber music evening counting the bars of three part-books of the Pleyel Trio played the night before, trying to resolve just such a question. Perhaps Bull wrote this out to demonstrate to his colleagues ‘how it worked’, or just because he was curious.

The opening of Mozart’s 19th Quartet, written out in ‘short’ score by Bull


April 17th Day Two

17th April 2013. The end of two days researching at Lysøen-Ole Bull’s house. An early evening concert for a hardy audience that had crossed the fjord from Solstrand. Played Bull, Paganini, Doppler, Tartini, Joachim, and Sadie Harrison


By the end of day two, I have seen over 300 hundred objects-ranging from instruments and tools to astonishing score material. Today, a solo work by Bull dedicated to Glinka. It seems that they met in Seville in 1846, and Bull insribed the solo work, a Siciliana in Glinka’s album. The inscription gives a clue as to the language gap between the two musicians, as it is in Italian. 




Ole Bull-Springdands at Lysøen

On the 26th April 1866, Ole Bull was honoured by the Dansk Norsk Forening in Copenhagen. It was reported that after the toast and been exchanged and Bull honoured, the ‘Flaxen Haired Paganini’ stood quietly in the middle of the room and began to play. ‘Springdances, Hallings, burst from his violin and then he gave himself up to a free fantasy on a National Norwegian Air’.

This is one of Bull’s Springdanser, slightly embellished with the sort of improvisatory ornaments that are to be heard in his Fanitullen.

Peter Sheppard Skaerved-Violin

Workshop Recording in Ole Bull’s music room at  Lysøen/ 17 4 2013

Ole Bull honoured at the Dansk-Norsk Forening, 26th April 1866


18 4 2013 Bergen: Waiting to play. Rain…



19th April: Today with extraordinary help from Jorunn E. Færden, at the music department of the Bergen Public Library, I was able to see ( and get copies) of two fascinating works from Bull’s collection. The first of these, is by a composer/violinist who has figured large in my Beethoven research and recording-Franz Clement (1780-1842).

Franz Clement-Variations on André Ernest Modeste Grétry’s opera ‘Barbe Bleu’

Peter Sheppard Skaerved-Violin (Stradivari 1734 ‘Habeneck’)

Clement is best known as the violinist who premiered ( and in some ways, helped write) Beethoven’s Violin Concerto Op 61  in 1806.  I was astonished to find that he had written a piece for Ole Bull, an Etude  for violin, ‘dedicated to the Knight Ole Bull’. Here is the title page, and there will be more to follow.

Franz Clement’s ‘Etude’ Dedicated to Ole Bull

In addition, something to gladden the heart of any Dane, or anyone married to one. Also from Ole Bull’s collection a solo violin piece, very much in his spirit, and with a scordatura (retuning), which he would like. Over the past few days, I have become fascinated with the work of Anders Heyerdahl (1832-1918), who I first encountered through a transcription that he made of Ole Bull improvising. Heyerdahl was a violinist, composer and collector of folk musik. The solo work which I found in the Lysoen collection was Nissespel. ‘Nisser’ as every Danish child does, are the playful house elves who must be humoured and honoured at Christmas. Heyerdahl’s title page includes one playing the violin for what almost appears to be a Nisser-witches dance-there are echoes of Paganini here.

The title page of Anders Heyerdahl’s ‘Nisserspel’

This is only a beginning, but this piece paired with a text by Ole Bull’s great friend,  Aasmund Olavsson Vinje, a poem about the Nisse ‘som spila pa Fela (fiddle) og hoyra kann’. In 1857, Vinje had noted about Bull that he was a ‘marvellously unhappy man…as far as I can tell, he is not responsible for most of it’ (thanks to Einar Haugen for the quote-from his ‘Ole Bull: Norway’s Romantic Musician and Cosmopolitan Patrio’).

It was Vinje, who in 1858 published a biographical article ‘Myllarguten and Ole Bull’ which counterpointed Bull’s life with that of the most renowned of all Hardanger violinists, ‘Myllarguten’ (the miller’s son). It had been Bull who had drawn mass public attention to the ‘miller’s son’ whose actual name was Torgeir Augundsson (1799(?)-1872), who he had met for the first time sometime between 1829 and 1831.

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

As I have noted about and on the earlier visit to the house (LINK)the plethora of instrumental fittings in the boxes in the enormous armoire from which much of the material appears is bewildering. Sorting through the array of tailpieces (see photo above), one stuck out.

Early tailpiece-top (20p coin for scale)

I am intrigued as to where Bull obtained this object. Today, there is a good chance that we would not give it a second glance, as early baroque style fittings are twoapenny, courtesy of the revival of the revival of understanding of early set-ups in the late 20th Century. However, this was not the case in the 19th Century. I have a nagging suspicion that this fitting was on one of the many violins which Bull bought and sold, perhaps his Nicolo Amatic violin, and is an example of mid-17th technology, cast aside and just hidden under a pile of other cast offs, in a dusty box, where I found it.  this is just a first reaction, of course.