August Enna (1859–1939)

Two great passions characterize August Ennas production: love of opera und love of Hans Christian Andersen's fairy-tales. Opera was Enna's métier, and it made him one of the most successful Nordic composers around the year 1900.

Enna's relationship with Hans Christian Andersen was a more personal matter. Enna was clearly moved by Andersen's fairy-tales, and he set them to music as ballet, piano pieces, songs, orchestral music and as operas. Perhaps Enna felt that he shared a common destiny with Andersen. They both came from a humble background, and they both achieved international fame. Even so, both Andersen and Enna remained somewhat eccentric persons in Danish cultural life, Ugly duckings who stood out for better or worse.

August Enna (18591939) grew up among poor people on Lolland, and Hans Christian Andersen (18051875) grew up in the almost just as provincial Odense. They were both sons of a shoemaker. Enna was moreover of exotic extraction, and this was not something to be winked at at that time. His paternal grandfather was a Sicilian soldier from Napoleons army who deserted und married a Jewish woman in Hamburg before ending up in Denmark. In the beginning it did not seem that August Enna's life would reach beyond the shoemaking trade, but the boy was musical, and he was allowed to journey to Copenhagen in order to try his luck just like Hans Christian Andersen. For some years Enna was a violinist und conductor, also abroad. He wrote music already as a youth, and as a composer he was largely self-taught. When he was praised by Niels W. Gade, the king of Danish musical life, his success was achieved.

But before long, Enna embarked on paths which differed considerably from the style of the conservative Gade. Enna had in fact for the first time come across a couple of Wagner scores, und this caused him to discard the whole of his earlier production. The Italian operas of the time also influenced him decisively, and Enna's breakthrough came in 1892 with the opera "The Witch" a highly dramatic und atypical conception in the light of Danish conditions. In the course of four decades Enna wrote altogether more than 20 operas und operettas, many of which enjoyed great favour with audiences in Germany und central Europe. "The Witch" was performed in no fewer than 40 European theatres.

Among Enna's most distinctive Andersen works are the operas "The Little Match Girl", "The Princess and the Pea", "Ib and Little Christina", "The Nightingale", the ballet "The Shepherdess and the Chimney Sweep", the oratorio "The Story of a Mother", and two orchestral works: The "Hans Christian Andersen Festival Overture" and "Fairytales".

(Jens Cornelius, translated by Gwyn Hodgson, from the booklet to "August Enna - Orchestal Works", CD cpo, 2010)