Svend Asmussen, the 'fiddling Viking' – obituary

Svend Asmussen with Benny Goodman, 1950
Svend Asmussen with Benny Goodman, 1950 Credit: REUTERS

Svend Asmussen , who has died aged 100, was the Danish jazz violinist sometimes known as “the fiddling Viking”.

Although critics rated him among the very few world-class jazz violinists, Asmussen preferred to see himself as a musical entertainer. “My typical audience contains 10 per cent jazz fans,” he once pointed out. “I have to reach the rest as well.”

Svend Harald Christian Asmussen was born in Copenhagen on February 28 1916. His father, a grain merchant, was a keen amateur pianist, and the whole family was musical. Asmussen began taking violin lessons at the age of seven and took to jazz at 16, after hearing records by the American fiddler Joe Venuti. On leaving school he enrolled at dental college, but soon realised that dentistry held no attraction for him.

Svend Asmussen and Ulrik Neumann in a musical number during the gala given for Charles Trenet's anniversary Credit: Jean Claude Pierdet/INA via Getty

He began playing for shows and dances around Copenhagen and worked up an act combining fiddling and comedy. This set the pattern...


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