Obituary: Finn Hoffding

Of the trio of grand old men of Danish music, only Hermann D. Koppel is left: Vagn Holmboe died last September and now Holmboe's teacher, Finn Hoffding, has gone too, 19 days after his 98th birthday. Hoffding's compositions seem - unjustifiably - to have fallen from current favour, although his selfless activity on behalf of music education will ensure that his contribution to music-making in Denmark lives on.

Hoffding was born in Copenhagen in 1899, took lessons on the violin and organ, and studied with the legendary scholar and contrapuntist Knut Jeppesen between 1918 and 1921 before travelling to Vienna to study with Joseph Marx - both men composers and musicologists, a double profile that left its mark on Hoffding's own career.

Hoffding was already composing: the first work in Svend Bruhns' and Dan Fog's 1969 catalogue of his work is a Romance for violin and strings from 1918. The first of his four symphonies, the Sinfonia Impetuosa, was completed five years later, with No 2, Il Canto de Liberato, written the following year, No 3 in 1928, and the Sinfonia Concertante, No 4, in 1934. Thereafter Hoffding abandoned the symphony as a form, preferring to develop his orchestral thoughts in a series of "Symphonic Fantasias", of which there are also four, composed between 1939 and 1953; No 2, Det er ganske vist ("It Is Perfectly True", 1940, after Hans Christian Andersen), is perhaps his best-known work, and is the only one of his 18 orchestral pieces currently available on CD. There are also two "normal" operas: Kajserens nye klder ("The Emperor's Clothes", again after Andersen, 1926), Kilderejsen ("The Healing Spring", after Holberg, 1931), and a third, choral, one, Pasteur (1935), intended for performance in schools.

Hoffding's style owes something to the muscularity of Carl Nielsen, the greatest musical Dane of them all, but his lean counterpoint and thinner textures are tempered by an acquaintance with trends in contemporary neo- classicism and honed by a fine sense of irony. But, although his music is generally traditional in expression, his ears were open: Das Eisenbahngleichnis of 1934, for chorus, piano and three saxophones, flirts with jazz, and as late as 1965, in his Fantasia Concertante, he was experimenting with the sort of sounds to be found in mainstream European modernism - the list of percussion that work requires might as easily come from a score of Boulez.

As Hoffding's concert music emerged, so too did his educational works. An encounter with an amateur cantata of Hindemith's in Frankfurt in 1927 sparked the idea of a systematic approach to the teaching of music in Denmark, and brought about the first of a steady stream of works for amateurs, often for chorus, as well as easy pieces for young players: Hoffding's choral music, which often has a deeply humanist message, is now a staple of Danish school singing.

Hoffding was also a renowned teacher himself. He taught at the Royal Academy of Music in Copenhagen from 1931 until 1955, for the last years as its director. His pupils read like a roll-call of the great and good in Danish music, from Vagn Holmboe to Per Norgard, who takes Holmboe's place as the most noteworthy living Danish composer.

By the time of his death his advanced age had kept the frail Hoffding from the forefront of musical life in Denmark, and his music has slipped from sight. Thorough exploration of his large output (Bruhns' and Fog's catalogue records 110 works up till 1969) would reveal a powerful, witty, thoughtful - and profoundly human - composer.

Finn Hoffding, composer: born Copenhagen 10 March 1899; married Aslaut Munck (died 1996); died Copenhagen 29 March 1997.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR and Payroll Manager

£35000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This dynamic outsourced contact...

Recruitment Genius: Production & Quality Control Assistant

£19000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An excellent opportunity for a ...

Ashdown Group: Group HR Advisor - Kettering - £32,000

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group HR Advisor with an established...

Guru Careers: HR Manager / HR Generalist

£40 - 50k (DOE) + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking a HR Manager / HR Genera...

Day In a Page

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing