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Friedrich Kuhlau Biography

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Friedrich Daniel Rudolf Kuhlau (September 11, 1786 - March 12, 1832) was a German-Danish composer during the Classical Period.

Born in Germany, after losing his right eye in a street accident at the age of nine, he studied piano in Hamburg. In 1810, he fled to Copenhagen to avoid conscription in the Napoleonic Army, which overwhelmed the many small principalities and duchies of northern Germany, and in 1813 he became a Danish citizen. Outside of several lengthy trips which he took, he resided there until his death. During his lifetime, he was known primarily as a concert pianist and composer of Danish opera, but was responsible for introducing many of Beethoven's works, which he greatly admired, to Copenhagen audiences. Considering that his house burned down destroying all of his unpublished manuscripts, he was a prolific composer leaving more than 200 published works in most genres.

Beethoven, whom Kuhlau knew personally, exerted the greatest influence upon his music. Interestingly, few of Beethoven’s contemporaries showed greater understanding or ability to assimilate what he was doing than Kuhlau. Certainly with regard to form, Kuhlau was clearly able to make sense and use what Beethoven was doing in his Middle Period.

He wrote a piano concerto, a string quartet, several works for piano which included all the current genres of the day:sonatas, sonatinas, waltzes, rondos and variation. He also created several works for the strings (three quartets and two quintets, and several violin sonatas), works of incidental music and several operas. However, his most-often recorded and played works are several piano sonatinas and numerous works for flute. It is because of these flute works that he was nicknamed "the Beethoven of the flute" during his lifetime, though he never played the instrument.

The ouverture to Kuhlau's opera Elverhøj enjoys particular popularity due to its use in the movie Olsen-banden ser rødt. In that movie's showdown, the Olsen gang bombs, drills, and hammers its way through the opera house's basement in synchronicity with the music.

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