Johan Severin Svendsen (30 September 1840 – 14 June 1911) was a Norwegian composer. Born in Oslo, he lived most of his life in Copenhagen, Denmark. Svendsen's output is two symphonies, a violin concerto, a cello concerto, the Romance for violin as well as many Norwegian Rhapsodies for orchestra. Svendsen was an intimate friend of Edvard Grieg and Richard Wagner.
Along with Grieg, Svendsen represents Norwegian Romanticism at its highest. Outside of Norway, Svendsen has got a few followers and it may be only a matter of time before he receives the same belated international interest accorded to Berwald and Nielsen.
Svendsen was the son of a military bandsman who taught him wind instruments and the violin. Svendsen performed as a boy in both a regimental band and dance orchestras. His exposure to symphonic classics came with his appointment as first violinist in the Norwegian Theatre Orchestra and subsequent discovery of Beethoven's music. Further study of the masters developed through his lessons with Carl Arnold. He got a royal stipend which enabled him to go the Leipzig Conservatory to study. Svendsen originally aimed for violin studies but shifted to composition due to nervous problems of the left hand. His musicality led to his being allowed to deputize as conductor in the conservatory orchestra. He left the conservatory with honours in 1867 after completing his Symphony No. 1 and string quintet. Svendsen returned to Norway where a concert of his own music drew praise from a review by Grieg. The Franco-Prussian War in 1870 aborted a conducting position in Leipzig but a successful performance of his Symphony No. 1 with the Gewandhaus gave him confidence. Svendsen returned to Norway in 1872 to share directorship of the Christiana (Oslo) Music Society concerts with Grieg. The generosity of a government grant helped create a conducive atmosphere for Svendsen to compose his Second Symphony and his series of Norwegian Rhapsodies. He received directorship of the Royal Opera in Copenhagen in 1883. He traveled widely and met Saint-Saëns, Sarasate and built a friendship with Wagner. His marriage had deteriorated to a point where his wife jealously flung the completed manuscript of a third symphony into a fire in 1882. Svendsen's creativity severely took a blow by this incident. He remarried in 1901. His international reputation continued until illness forced him to cease performing in 1908. Svendsen deserves a place in the select line of Scandinavian composers.