Knudåge Riisager, the Composer

Knudåge Riisager was born on 6 March 1897 in Port Kunda in Estonia where his father, Emil Riisager, was instrumental in the establishment of a cement works on behalf of F.L. Smidth & Co. In 1899, the father was called back to Denmark to work for F.L. Smidth & Co in Copenhagen and, hence, the Family moved to Frederiksberg, a municipality within Greater Copenhagen. Here, Knudåge Riisager would remain for the rest of his life.

After completing his A levels (studentereksamen in Danish) in 1915, he enrolled on the political science discipline at University of Copenhagen from where he graduated in 1921. At the beginning of 1921, Riisager went to Paris where, up until and including 1923, he stayed for three periods. Here, he trained the arts of composing and instrumentation.

Between 1925 and 1950 he made his way in the world of the Danish central administration. As of 1939, he was a chief of section at the Ministry of Finance. During the period between 1956 and 1967 he served as the president of the Royal Danish Academy of Music. Knudåge Riisager died on 26 December 1974.  Read more about Knudåge Riisager

Photography: Costin Radu Photography©

»There was a time, in my infancy, when my mother took me on a passage by glacial and stormy seas, from Russia to Denmark. She was headed homewards to see her parents and present her firstborn. On this passage, I was taken ill with pneumonia and died. At all events, seeing me – green as the head of a celery – the ship’s doctor declared that now, it was over. I nonetheless defied his authority and opened my eyes again to live on. At the age of two, I had thus imposed my will, a decision which thus came to mark the background for my later preoccupation with the airy toy of the musical language – for, if we are to believe in science, I must, in all probability, have found myself in the beyond for a short while and, hence, got a keen ear for the music of the spheres.« (Our translation) 

Statement by Knudåge Riisager 1929. Houmark 1929, quote from Claus Røllum-Larsen’s book on Knudåge Riisager.