A brief review of important
stages in Henrik Rung´s life and work
1807: Born (31 March) in Copenhagen.
1816: Moved to Næstved (7 September) where he was
given lessons on the guitar and the violin
1824: Once again in Copenhagen, confinement to his bed
for two years as the result of a knee injury is used to develop his
skill as a guitarist.
1829: Admitted (1 January) to the Royal Orchestra as a
student of the doublebass.
1837: Composed music to the musical play Svend Dyrings
Hus (premiere 15 March)
1837-40: Study trip to Rome and Paris.
1840: Singing teacher at the Royal Theatre.
1842: First singing-master at the Royal Theatre (31 March).
1851: Founded the Cæcilia Society choir (29 October).
1857: Produced a supplement to Weyse´s hymnbook
1871: Died (12 December).
Henrik Rung grew up in Næstved, where his
father worked in the customs office. As a boy he had guitar lessons
from a "Miss Irgens" and later, as a young man, he was taught by the
virtuoso guitarist S. Degen. Due to a severe injury to one of
his knees, Rung spent two years of his youth bound
to his bed. A positive result of this unfortunate experience, however,
was that it gave him the oppertunity to develop a legendary virtuosity
on the guitar. His legs caused him trouble throughout his life, sometimes
keeping him bedridden, at other times forcing him to visit health centres
His musical education was otherwise provided by the school
of the Royal Chapel (which by this time meant Royal Orchestra) in Copenhagen,
where in order to make a living he entered as a student of the double
bass, though it is said that it was really his skill as a guitarist
that gained him admission. He made rapid progress and because of his
obvious musical talent - and especially the very successful music he
wrote for Henrik Hertz´s play Svend Dyrings Hus
(1837) - he was awarded a grant for two years of study abroad. He went
first to Vienna, then to Rome, where he studied singing with some of
Italy´s finest teachers. With the help of Giuseppe Baini (general
administrator of the college of papal singers and biographer of Palestrina)
he obtained access to Rome´s best libraries and became profoundly
interested in the music of the Italian Renaissance, in particular of
Palestrina, of which he was allowed to make copies. While he was in
Rome (in March 1839) he learned that the Italian sangmester at the Royal
Theatre in Copenhagen, Giuseppe Siboni, had died and he immediately
applied to be his successor. His application was successful and as his
leave was then extended by another year he was also able to spend some
months in Paris before returning to Copenhagen. In addition to his work
at the Royal Theatre, which benefited greatly from his experience of
Italian singing and Italian opera, he founded the Cecilia Society in
order to promote an understanding of the older Italian music as well.
He was also active as a composer of music for the theatre and of songs,
choruses and music for the guitar and took a lively part in the often
heated debate concerning church music and hymn-singing. In later years,
however, the importance of his many contributions to Danish musical
life has been unfairly underrated.
Henrik Rung (1807-1871), article