The Free Press, Mankato, MN


February 21, 2013

St. Peter couple preserves, promotes works of forgotten composer

Theodora Cormontan may be no Johann Sebastian Bach — but the two composers have at least one thing in common:

They weren’t fully appreciated in their lifetimes.

Bach, of course, was recognized as a church organist while still alive. But it wasn’t until a hundred years after his death that critics and musicians began to recognize the genius of the man who is called by some the “master of masters.”

In her own lifetime, Cormontan, a Norwegian immigrant to Renville County in 1887 (and later Hanska, Madelia and St. James), was likewise little known outside of a few published works in Norway. After relocating to Minnesota with family who had arrived years earlier, Cormontan taught lessons and gave recitals across the region. Her musicianship was widely praised, but her original compositions were largely ignored.

That is, until St. Peter musicians Michael and Bonnie Jorgensen rediscovered them.

Michael, a Gustavus Adolphus College music instructor, and Bonnie, a pianist who performs frequently with the Mankato Symphony Orchestra, were given a few boxes of old music two years ago by friends Barb and Roger Nelson. Within that box, they found more than 150 handwritten scores written in “beautiful calligraphy” and signed by a name neither recognized.

“We’d never heard of her,” said Michael, who is hosting with Bonnie a presentation and recital of Cormontan’s music on Sunday at Gustavus.

“She was very obscure.”

Further examination, however, proved her work had merit.

Jorgensen said Cormontan’s music clearly reflects an educated mind and a “broad study” of composers of her time. Her works range from parlor music and pop music to more classical compositions and others that indicate exploration of Norwegian nationalism.

Jorgensen further noted that Cormontan’s scores require a high degree of skill to play on the piano.

“I think she was impressive,” Michael said, speculating that her works might have been too difficult for the market she was writing for, which seemed to prefer music that was more easily replicated. “Most of her pieces are pretty challenging.”

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
NDN Video
Is Charlize Theron Wearing An Engagement Ring? Paris Hilton back in a swimsuit for Carl's Jr. and Hardee's burger commercial Could Sandra Bullock Be Leaving Hollywood After Recent Home Intrusion? Megan Fox Turns Up The Heat At Comic Con Gwyneth Paltrow Did What? Zack Snyder Shares An All-New Batfleck Photo The Secret Behind Sofia Vergara's Gorgeous Hair You're Not Going to Believe Who's Turning 50! Taylor Swift Looks Terrific in a Tummy-Baring Style Joan Rivers Calls Kristen Stewart a "Moron" Blake Lively's Wedding Dress Revealed?! Hillary Clinton Blamed Bill's Affair With Monica Lewinsky On Abuse He Suffered As A Child 'Fifty Shades of Grey': Watch the Super Sexy First Trailer Now! Yes It's True! Jessica Biel Returns to TV H-O-T! "Fifty Shades of Grey" Trailer Is Here! A Look Back at Batman On Film Through The Years Zoe Saldana is Reportedly Pregnant, Will Announce it When She's Ready Kim and Kanye's Daughter Takes Her First Steps Tori Spelling Lets Loose on Marriage Problems Selena Gomez Caught Snuggling With New Guy