Otto Mortensen Born 1907, Copenhagen, Denmark; died 1986, Århus, Denmark
Otto Mortensen was one of the most highly reputed pianists and musicologists of the twentieth century. He was also a popular composer. He wrote innumerable songs and hymns, many of them part of the core repertoire of the Danish Folk High School Songbook. It was undoubtedly Mortensen’s particularly active career that made him the high-profile artist we know today. After concluding his studies as a pianist at the Royal Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen in 1930, Otto Mortensen took the post as opera repetiteur and conductor for among others the Royal Danish Orchestra. His time at Copenhagen’s major classical music venues must be said to have had a crucial influence on many of his compositions.Several of Otto Mortensen’s early works for chamber ensemble and orchestra are written in a neoclassical style with inspiration from French music in particular. But along with other cultural personalities such as Poul Henningsen (PH), Ejnar Jakobsen and Finn Høffding, Otto Mortensen in time became an ambassador for a new branch of Danish music which, thanks to a stronger popular appeal, was to spread to a larger part of the Danish population. Otto Mortensen began to write music in a popular style, and was the initiator of several large-scale projects. One of his more striking ventures was the establishment of the Danish folk music schools. It is this innovative musical thinking that has given several of his works a place in the Danish cultural heritage, including two of his most well known compositions, “Du gav os de blomster” (You gave us the flowers) and “Septembers himmel er så blå” (September skies they are so blue), both included in the Danish Ministry of Culture’s ‘Cultural Canon’.