Date of Submission



This study seeks to demonstrate how the chorale prelude, as presented in the Pro organo (1951-1958), a collection of 323 historical and 20th-century chorale preludes compiled and edited by Rolf Karlsen (1911-1982) and Ludvig Nielsen (1906-2001), represents the ethos of the neue Sachlichkeit (new objectivity) in music written for the Lutheran established Church of Norway in the middle decade of the 20th century, and how the compilation challenged received Norwegian organ music traditions. The concept of the neue Sachlichkeit, often used in describing tendencies in art, literature, film and architecture, was also interpreted in Northern Europe to imply an historicist, idealised compositional style in church music in reaction to what was seen as excessive 19th-century sentimentality. The chorale prelude provides an ideal microcosmic element for musico-liturgical study. Strongly influenced by Per Steenberg's Koralbok (1949), Pro organo embraces both works from the 17th and 18th centuries and contemporary material composed specifically for the collection, including 262 works by Karlsen and Nielsen. Throughout, it reflects an editorial desire to provide apposite music for the church according to principles of what was then called the 'pure style' in music. The main hypothesis of the study is that the compilation Pro organo demonstrates a clear manifestation of neue Sachlichkeit style ideals through the provision of clear, brief, moderate organ introductions of high quality to congregational hymns, and hence constitutes a major landmark in the history of Norwegian liturgical music for the organ. Of particular importance were fidelity to the chorale tune, minimal sentimentality, technical moderation and concision, with the use of imitative and other compositional techniques drawn from historical practices. In the context of neue Sachlichkeit style ideals, the study questions the extent to which contemporary works were modelled on historical precetents and furthermore, it examines the ways in which the 20th-century works by the compilers develop historical style principles.

Document Type


Access Rights

Open Access


343 pages

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Faculty of Arts and Sciences