Sheet music

NORWAY : Norway National Anthem
Norwegian National Anthem
National Anthem of Norway
Ja, vi elsker

  • Author: Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson (1832-1910)
  • Composer: Rikard Nordraak (1842-1866)
  • Adopted: 1864
  • National Day: May 17 (1814) - Constitution Day
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    Rikard Nordraak
    Rikard Nordraak

  • Further details: The original version of 'Ja, vi elsker' ("Yes, we love') was written by BJØRNSTJERNE BJØRNSON (1832-1910) in 1859. 'Ja, vi elsker' is in content essentially historical, though there is also some description of the Norwegian landscape, it is also coloured by Bjørnson's great eloquence, his marvellous faculty for rousing the enthusiasm of the masses with a few striking words. He wrote it when he was beginning to embark on that career as a public speaker for which he is renowned in Norwegian history. Typical of Bjørnson too is his daring to begin a poem with the little, everyday word 'Ja' ('Yes'). 'Ja, vi elsker' did not acquire its final form till 1863 (the few alterations made in 1869 are quite unimportant). In this 1863 version one stanza was deleted and three new ones were added. The last of these new stanzas begins with a repetition of the first four lines of the magnificent opening stanzas of the poem, then continues, in four new lines, with a powerful forward looking pledge to follow the example of those forebears who fought victoriously for Norway in times of distress (the English translation does not render the meaning of the original accurately on this point). Thus Bjørnson has combined in one song devotion and enthusiasm, modesty and strength. Bjørnson put it this way: 'Our National Anthem is that of a small, peace-loving nation, but if it is sung in the hour of danger, determination clad in armour speaks from every line".

    'Ja, vi elsker' became Norway's National Anthem on May 17 1864, the fiftieth anniversary of the adoption of the Constitution which the people of Norway gave to themselves. It was sung for the first time on that day at Eidsvoll; Bjørnson was a guest at the solemn ceremony along with the Norwegian Government and Parliament. In its fullest form 'Ja, vi elsker' consists of eight verses. When the National Anthem is actually sung, the usual practice is to take only the first and last two verses of the poem.

    'Ja, vi elsker' certainly owes much of its popularity to the tune composed by the young Norwegian composer RIKARD NORDRAAK (1842-1866) in 1863.

    Nordraak and Bjørnson had much in common - they were in fact cousins - and the solemnity and gentleness of Bjørnson's poetry are admirably reflected in Nordraak's settings. Nordraak did not realise that 'Ja, vi elsker' was to be the National Anthem and so arranged it for a quartet of male voices. When Nordraak died in 1866 at the early age of twenty-four, Norway lost in him one of her most promising sons. Naturally he did not leave behind him a great body of music but he will always be remembered for his fine songs and, of course, above all for his setting of 'Ja, vi elsker'. In a speech in which he compares Nordraak's setting of his own poem with other National Anthems, Bjørnson said: "...either they make a melancholy impression or else they breathe insurrection, or, alternatively, they are pure idylls. But this National Anthem of ours is free and open as the day, it soars upwards without a threat, it shows determination unmarred by boasting". And Grieg, the man in whom we see Nordraak's work carried on, said of his friend: "...he lived and died with a firm faith in Norway's future. This faith he instils into us even today - through his national music".

    The anthems for (1) Lappland (Sami), (2) Bergen and (3) Northern Norway will soon be available for download.

    Montage of Three Kings of Norway