The Ringve Music Museum is a place of beauty

Keeping music alive and well

Cynthia Elyce Rubin
The Norwegian American

The Ringve Music Museum is a place of beauty

The Main Building or Manor House at the Ringve Music Musuem is an important attraction of the museum. The house has been through several conversions, and the oldest parts date from around 1770.

Sitting majestically on a hill on the Lade peninsula northeast of Trondheim center is the country estate of Ringve, surrounded by its Botanical Garden and with a beautiful view over the Trondheimsfjord.

Ringve Farm was the childhood home of the Danish-Norwegian nobleman, Peter Tordenskjold. Driving from the main gate through the landscaped park, which is now a Botanical Garden run by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, you come upon a stately main building or Manor House.

The original house on the site was built in 1521 or earlier, but the current group of buildings dates from the 1770s. Today, Ringve is an oasis in an area of traffic and light industry that only a few generations ago was in a neighborhood of country houses and greenery.

From Russia with love

Victoria Bachke (1896-1963) was the founder and original director of the Ringve Museum. She was born in the Russian seaside resort of Kranz, where her parents spent summers. Her father was a bridge builder with the Russian state railroad, and the children received a good education, speaking French and German and learning music. Several of Victoria’s siblings became professional musicians, and she was a skilled vocalist.

In March 1914, Victoria left Moscow with her older sister, Valentine, an opera singer. During World War I, Valentine participated in benefit concerts for Russian refugees throughout the Nordic countries. In 1916, she gave her first performance in Trondheim and soon married Morten Svendsen, the concert master at the city theater.

In 1919, sister Victoria visited and met Christian Bachke. They married, and Victoria now had a secure life. She enjoyed travel and in the dark winter months, and she visited European cities, as her husband stayed behind for business. The couple had no children and put their energies into their love of music and assembling a collection of historical musical artifacts and instruments.

The museum’s beginnings

World War II was difficult. The Bachkes were ordered to demolish Ringve to make way for an airstrip on the Lade plain. Victoria, however, was able to save the dwelling.

When Christian died in 1946, Victoria needed a project. She began the work of creating a museum as her debt of gratitude to her husband. When the museum was founded in 1952, Victoria wanted music to resound and be heard.

“This is not a museum,” she said, “it is a home for musical instruments.” The newspapers were soon full of articles about the energetic lady of Ringve who returned from trips with very strange musical instruments.

As a collector, Victoria was relentless. If there was something she wanted, she didn’t give up trying to obtain it. The most widely told story regards the “Versailles” harpsichord. In May 1953, she brought home an 18th-century harpsichord she found in Paris at the home of the widow of a French music professor. It had been lent to the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles for use in concerts. She had to have it. Rumor was that it had belonged to Louis XIV and that Victoria smuggled it out of France. She did nothing to squash the rumor. And today it is on display.

Later, in the summer of 1963, she received an invitation from the Soviet Ministry of Culture to visit Moscow. She described the visit to her homeland as an adventure with visits to museums and evenings of ballet, opera, and theater. But her most cherished visits were with her two sisters whom she had not seen for 50 years. In November of that year upon her return home, she died. Her ashes rest in Ringve Park.

Adult and child looking at instruments in a museum

Soundtracks, the instrument gallery at the Ringve Music Museum, offers much to explore. The exhibition is based on the museum’s collection of historical instruments from Norway and around the world.

The museum today

The museum continues her attitude and offers live music and a number of concerts throughout the year. Public exhibitions are divided between the Manor House and the instrument gallery in the old barn.

The period interiors of the Manor House provide the setting for themed rooms of working, mainly keyboard, instruments. This section is open seasonally by guided tour only.

The barn houses instruments mainly associated with Western classical and popular music as well as folk instruments from around the word. The instrument collection currently consists of about 3,000 instruments from all over the world. In addition, about 100 instruments are on loan from other museums and private individuals.

The keyboard collection includes instruments that date from an unsigned Italian virginal from around the year 1600.

From the collection of classical wind instruments, an alto recorder by J.B. Gahn from about 1700 is the earliest example.

In addition, modern electronic instruments like a 1978 Roland System 700 synthesizer and a Gibson Les Paul electric guitar from 1952 are more modern treasured items.

A large group in the collection consists of traditional Norwegian instruments. You will find Hardanger fiddles from the 1700s and 1800s; Norwegian zithers or langeleiks from various regions of the country, and a varied selection of instruments used on mountain farms during hunts and special ceremonies.

All continents are represented with traditional instruments from Africa, Latin-America, Oceania, and Asia.

Museum Director Arnfinn Stendahl Rokne explains, “Musicality is a fundamental part of being human, and music is important because it speaks directly to our feelings. As a museum, we aim to tell stories and create social and personal experiences through musical performances. Our common musical heritage comes alive here through historical instruments, dance, and storytelling.”

Woman at piano

At the museum, you can take a journey back in time to highlights in Norwegian music history. During tours, the guides give talks and play a number of selected instruments

The garden

The Botanical Garden was established in 1973. The 32-acre space consists of an arboretum around a lake, a floral maze representing the evolutionary line of flowering perennial plants, a Renaissance herbal garden containing herbs used locally since, at least, 1694 and, in front of the Manor House, a historical “English” garden of the 1800s.

There is also an Onion Garden with 100 wild onion species alongside traditional food plants. Here you enjoy the colorful biodiversity and learn about trees, medicinal plants, plant evolution, band popular ornamental plants. It is a living collection used for research, education, and conservation of endangered species by the university. The garden is always open and free to the public.

And so the beauty of music and nature combine to form a magical experience at the Ringve Music Museum. Spend a day. Visit the museum shop and enjoy a snack at Café Victoria. Sit back and relax.

Learn more:

Ringve Music Museum

Ringve Botanical Garden

Photos:  Wil Lee-Wright / Ringve Music Museum

This article originally appeared in the April 2024 issue of The Norwegian American.

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Cynthia Elyce Rubin

Cynthia Elyce Rubin, PhD., is a visual culture specialist, travel writer, and author of articles and books on decorative arts, folk art, and postcard history. She collects postcards, ephemera, and early photography. See