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Herman von Løvenskiold


For his own choreographic version of the ballet La Sylphide, August Bournonville commissioned a new score from the nineteen-year-old Baron von Løvenskiold (1815–1870).
Some say it was because he did not have enough money to purchase the original 1832 score by Jean Schneitzhoeffer from the Paris Opera. However, French critics evaluated the score as not mastered very well, insufficiently dramatic, with tunes seemingly borrowed from works of other composers. Bournonville himself played the violin and thought music was “the most perfect instrument of imagination”. According to him “Music forms the foundation for ballet, melody and harmony evoke the atmosphere, rhythm defines the type and character of the dance. Music visualises the meaning of the ballet mime.”
Løvenskiold worked very closely with Bournonville. In line with his libretto, he composed the sequence of ballet parts; piano reduction was done for two violins. In the middle of the 19th century dance classes and rehearsals were accompanied on the violin. Bournonville noted: “This way music is composed to accompany the poem and ballet is then created in line with the rhythm and melodies, thereby merging both art forms into one common outcome.” Løvenskiold’s score for La Sylphide has been preserved and represents the oldest original Romantic ballet score. Musical means are applied to express the contrast between the ethereal world of a Sylph and its opposite in folk dances of the Scottish countrymen. Melodramatic sound effects and disharmonies increase the dramatic impact and intensify visual appeal of the stage plot. Løvenskiold composed primarily for the Royal Theatre, published ample piano music and an overture concertante. In cooperation with Bournonville he created ballet The New Penelope, or Spring Festival in Athens (1847). His monumental opera Turandot (1854) was staged just twice.
In the 1850s he became a court organist.