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Hans Christian Lumbye and his “Champagne Galop”

Hans Christian Lumbye (May 2, 1810 – March 20, 1874) was a Danish composer of hundreds of waltzes, polkas, mazurkas, marches, and galops, among other forms of dance music. He was born in 1810 at Copenhagen, Denmark. As a child, he studied music in Randers and Odense, and by age 14 he was playing the trumpet in a military band. In 1829, he joined the Horse Guards in Copenhagen, while still continuing his music education, and wrote his first pieces in his twenties. At the same time he played in the City Orchestra. In 1839, he heard a Viennese orchestra play music by Joseph Lanner and Johann Strauss I, after which he began to compose in the style of Strauss, eventually earning the nickname “The Strauss of the North”. In 1840 he formed his own orchestra with 22 players and started performing in one of the prestige hotels in Copenhagen

From 1843 to 1872, he served as the music director and in-house composer for Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen. Such was his popularity in the Danish capital that many Danes revered him and considered Johann Strauss II as the “Lumbye of the South”. Leading his orchestra from the violin, Lumbye patterned his concerts in his native Copenhagen after the manner of Strauss and is best known for his light compositions, many of which evoke non-musical sources. The Champagne Galop, for example, begins with the “pop” of a champagne cork, and the Copenhagen Steam Railway Galop faithfully recreates the sounds of a train chugging out of a station and grinding to a halt at the next stop. Lumbye also toured abroad and collaborated with the famous choreographer August Bournonville, with ballet music that includes the final Galop from Napoli. Other sparkling and melodious compositions that are still popular include his Drømmebilleder, Amélie Waltz, and many others including a number of fantasies.

Lumbye performed with his orchestra throughout the summer until his final years, and was himself a popular Stehgeiger or standing violinist. In the winter the orchestra played in the indoor entertainment establishments of the city. They also went on tours to Hamburg, Berlin, Vienna, Paris, Stockholm, and St Petersburg. His music has charm, humor, and inventiveness that is a match for his models in Vienna, but it is not so much waltzes that dominate his output as faster dances like galops, polkas, and mazurkas. He was the father of two musician sons, Carl Christian (1841-1911) and Georg August (1843 – 1922), who took over his orchestra after his father’s death. His grandson Georg Høeberg was an important Danish conductor at Det kongelige Teater. In 1872 failing health forced Lumbye to lay down his conductor’s baton, and he died in 1874. A fire in 1884 destroyed much of his material, but his musicians were able to reconstruct most of the scores from memory. His Champagne Galop has a status in Denmark on a par with the National Anthem.

My collection contains the following works by Hans Christian Lumbye:

Amelie Waltz (1849).
Britta Polka (1864).
Champagne Galop (1845).
Columbine Polka-Mazurka (1862).
Concert Polka for Two Violins (1863).
Dream Pictures Fantasy (1846).
Copenhagen’s Steam Railway Galop (1847).
The Lady of St. Petersburg Polka (1850).
The Life Guards on Amager Ballet (1871): Finale Galop.
Mon Salut a St. Petersbourg, March for the Danish Civil Guard (1848).
Napoli Ballet (1841): Finale Galop.
Polonaise with Cornet Solo (1847).
Queen Louise Waltz (1869).
Salute to August Bournonville (1869).
St. Petersburg Champagne Galop (1850).

—material selected, adapted, and edited from several different sources

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