Articles

Viking Oceans: Ole Bull, Norwegian Composer and Violin Virtuoso


(orchestral music) – [Karine] The 19th Century
brought Norway its first star. The man was Ole Bull who delighted in squeezing
every last drop of potential from his beloved violin. (violin music) – Ole Bull was a unique musician. He could do things on
violins which no other person could do. It’s really difficult music and that’s why naturally his music
has not been played for I think a hundred years. – [Karine] A man of overwhelming
confidence and charisma, Ole Bull took a most
unusual path to greatness. Though already playing at age five, he struggled with formal education. – It was said that Ole
Bull was self-taught but he had good teachers. The problem was that Ole Bull
didn’t want to learn so much. He wanted to invent it himself. – [Karine] Full of curiosity, Bull challenged every aspect of music. Even the fundamental design of the violin. – He did a lot of modifications
on his instruments. He flattened the bridge
and the fingerboard to be able to play all four
strings at the same time. Which is totally impossible
on a regular instrument. So he would play like (playing violin) only that he would play all
strings at the same time. Now we have to cheat them
and kind of make it bounce from string to string but he played all the strings at the same time. – Because a regular violin has a bowed– – Yeah, yeah.
– The four strings are bowed. – He didn’t make it totally
flat but he made it more flat and also had a longer bow and maybe made it a little bit softer
so he would be able to reach longer, all the strings. – [Karine] Ole Bull mesmerized Europe, playing hundreds of concerts
a year to packed houses. Yet, he was never satisfied
and searched constantly for ways to make the music even better. – He ruined a lot of
fantastic instruments, he had some beautiful Guarneri instruments that he totally ruined. He caved out from beneath the
wood until he went through it. He was always in search
of the perfect tone. (violin music) – [Karine] In his relentless quest to be recognized as the world’s
premier virtuoso violinist, Ole Bull was always creative. At times, taking extreme measures to put his talent on display. (violin music) – [Harald] He went up to the highest mountain in Norway to play. And in 1876, he was playing on the top of the pyramid in Egypt. – [Karine] From the
capitals of Europe to Cuba and America, Ole Bull left
his audiences spellbound. (applause) But music revealed just one
side of this complex man. The French Revolution awakened another. His deep longing for
an independent Norway. (violin music) – All the musicians were
fleeing but Ole Bull, he was going in to see the revolution. He was inspired to make
revolution in Norway. – [Karine] Ole Bull championed the cause throughout his life. He promoted Norwegian culture, too, integrating folk songs in to his music and writing themes inspired
by Norway’s natural beauty. – [Harald] Ole Bull loved
the nature of Norway. You can find that in his music. You can find the sunshine,
you can find the thunder, you can find the mountains. He was a very passionate man. (gentle music) – [Karine] His sanctuary while in Norway was the quiet island of Lysøen. And the estate remains little changed. (violin music) Located just outside Bergen, Lysøen offers a fascinating
window into the life of this legendary man. The villa reflects his
love for the many cultures through which he traveled
during his career. And the nature in which he
wrapped himself while at home. Ole Bull is just one of Norway’s
many cultural treasures. We look forward to sharing our
beautiful homeland with you.

Comment here