As many people know, Hans Christian Andersen, whose children’s stories have proven to be his most widespread source of fame, was the most prominent Danish author of the nineteenth century. As fewer people know, he enjoyed a brief career as an opera singer and dancer at Det Kongelige Teater in Copenhagen, and in later years he went on to produce opera libretti for the Danish and German stage. He made 30 major European tours, and on each of these trips he regularly attended opera and concert performances, recording his impressions in a series of travel diaries; a well-informed listener, his reflections comprise valuable sources for the study of music reception during this period.
Over the course of his life Andersen embraced and later rejected performers such as Liszt, Maria Malibran, and Ole Bull, and his interest in opera and instrumental music underwent a series of dramatic transformations. In his final years he promoted figures as disparate as Wagner and Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, while strongly objecting to Brahms. Although these changes in taste might be interpreted as indiscriminate, such shifts in opinion were not contradictory—rather, they were quite logical given the social and cultural climate.
This according to “Music history as reflected in the works of Hans Christian Andersen” by Anna Harwell Celenza, an essay included in our recently published Music’s intellectual history.