Edvard Grieg

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Edvard Grieg

Background information
Birth name Edvard Hagerup Grieg
Born 15 June 1843
Bergen, Norway Flag of Norway
Died 4 September 1907
Bergen, Norway
Genre(s) Romantic
Occupation(s) Composer
Instrument(s) Piano

Edvard Hagerup Grieg (15 June 18434 September 1907) was a Norwegian composer and pianist who composed in the romantic period. He is best known for his Piano Concerto in A minor, for his incidental music to Henrik Ibsen's play Peer Gynt (which includes In the Hall of the Mountain King), and for his Lyric Pieces for the piano.


[edit] Biography

Grieg was born in Bergen on the 15th of June 1843, and his original family name was spelt "Greig". After the Battle of Culloden in 1746, his great-grandfather travelled widely, settling in Norway around 1770, and establishing business interests in Bergen. Edvard was brought up in a musical home. His mother, Gesine, became his first piano teacher. He studied in several schools including Tank's School, and often brought in examples of his music to his class. The children were fascinated by it, but the teachers regarded it as inferior. He was known as a lazy pupil.

In the summer of 1858, Grieg met the eminent Norwegian violinist Ole Bull, who was a friend of the family, and whose brother was married to Grieg's aunt. Bull noticed the 15-year-old boy's talent and persuaded his parents to send him to further develop his talents at the Leipzig Conservatory, then directed by Ignaz Moscheles.

Grieg enrolled in the conservatory, concentrating on the piano, and enjoyed the numerous concerts and recitals given in Leipzig. He disliked the discipline of the conservatory course of study, yet he still achieved very good grades in most areas, the exception being the organ, which was mandatory for piano students, at the time. In the spring of 1860, he survived a life-threatening lung disease. The following year he made his debut as a concert pianist, in Karlshamn, Sweden. In 1862, he finished his studies in Leipzig, and held his first concert in his home town of Bergen, where his programme included Beethoven's Pathétique sonata. (Grieg's own recording of his Piano Sonata, made late in his life, shows he was an excellent pianist).

In 1863, Grieg went to Copenhagen, Denmark, and stayed there for three years. He met the Danish composers J. P. E. Hartman, and Niels Gade. He also met his fellow Norwegian composer Rikard Nordraak (composer of the Norwegian national anthem), who became a good friend and source of great inspiration. Nordraak died shortly after, and Grieg composed a funeral march in his honor. Grieg had close ties with the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra (Harmonien) and was Music Director of the orchestra from 1880-1882.

On 11 June 1867, Grieg married his first cousin, Nina Hagerup. The next year their only child, Alexandra, was born. The following summer, Grieg wrote his Piano Concerto in A minor while on holiday in Denmark. Edmund Neupert gave the concerto its premiere performance on 3 April 1869 in the Casino Theater in Copenhagen. Grieg himself was unable to be there due to commitments conducting in Christiania (as Oslo was then named).

In 1868, Franz Liszt, who up to that time had not met Grieg, wrote a testimonial for him to the Norwegian Ministry of Education, which led to Grieg obtaining a travel grant. The two finally met in Rome in 1870. On Grieg's first visit, the two went over Grieg's Violin Sonata No. 1, which pleased Liszt greatly. On the second visit, in April, Grieg brought with him the manuscript of his Piano Concerto, which Liszt proceeded to play by sight (including the orchestral arrangement). Liszt's rendition greatly impressed his audience, although Grieg gently pointed out to him that he played the first movement too quickly. Liszt also gave Grieg some advice on orchestration, (e.g. to give the melody of the second theme in the first movement to a solo trumpet).

Grieg's tomb
Grieg's tomb

In the summer of 1869, Grieg's daughter Alexandra became ill and died, at the age of 13 months.

In 1876, Grieg created incidental music for the premiere of Ibsen's play Peer Gynt, at the request of the author. Many of the pieces from this work became very popular in the form of orchestral suites or piano and piano-duet arrangements.

In 1888, Grieg met Tchaikovsky in Leipzig. Grieg was later struck by the sadness in Tchaikovsky.[1] Tchaikovsky thought very highly of Grieg's music, praising its beauty, originality and warmth.[2]

Grieg's later life brought him fame but not wealth.[citation needed] The Norwegian government awarded him a pension.

Edvard Grieg died in the autumn of 1907, aged 64, after a long period of illness. The funeral drew between 30 and 40 thousand people out on the streets of his home town to honour the artist. Following his wish, his own funeral march was played. The funeral march by Frederic Chopin was played as well. His and his wife's ashes are entombed in a mountain crypt near his house, Troldhaugen.

[edit] Music

Grieg is noted as a nationalist composer, drawing inspiration from Norwegian folk music. Early works include a symphony and a piano sonata. He also wrote three sonatas for violin and piano and a cello sonata. His many short pieces for piano — often built on Norwegian folk tunes and dances — led some to call him the Chopin of the north.

Among Grieg's best-known pieces are his Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 16, ten volumes of Lyric Pieces (for piano), and his incidental music to Henrik Ibsen's play Peer Gynt, especially for Morning Mood and In the Hall of the Mountain King.

Despite In the Hall of the Mountain King being one of Grieg's most popular and enduring compositions, he himself did not care much for it. In a letter to a friend he wrote about the "infernal thing reek[ing] of cow-pies and provincialism."

Grieg's popular Holberg Suite was originally written for the piano but later arranged for string orchestra.

Although Grieg's smaller scale pieces are the most successful musically, the Piano Concerto, though, is still frequently performed. The slow movement, with its folk-like melodies, is perhaps its most successful feature. It was championed by pianist/composer Percy Grainger, who befriended Grieg and played the concerto frequently during his long career.

Grieg wrote songs with lyrics from Heinrich Heine, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and others (op. 4, op. 48, etc.). Grieg's songs now feature frequently in recitals and it is perhaps in these and the Lyric Pieces that his originality shows itself most convincingly.

Nikolai Myaskovsky paid a tribute to Grieg by choosing a theme by Grieg for the variations with which he closed his Third String Quartet.

[edit] Grieg's music in popular culture

  • Morning Mood was a favorite of Carl Stalling who often used it for morning establishing shots in Warner Bros.. cartoons. It is now typically associated with Nordic scenes; however, it was meant to depict sunrise over the Sahara Desert.
  • In the Hall of the Mountain King was famously used in the 1931 film M, in which Peter Lorre's character, a serial killer who preys on children, whistles it. The piece has also seen extensive use in movies and commercials, usually in accordance with a dramatic and fantastic event. Famous British rock band The Who also used Grieg's music from In the Hall of the Mountain King for their song Hall of the Mountain King from their 1967 album The Who Sell Out. Hall of the Mountain King is also played by Finnish cello rock band Apocalyptica in album Cult (2000). It also can be heard extensively on Rick Wakeman's (keyboardist with British rock group Yes) album Journey to the Centre of the Earth. The first movement of Grieg's Piano Concerto is used in Adrian Lyne's 1997 film Lolita. Another piece from Peer Gynt, "Anitra's Dance", serves as background music for Quest for Glory IV. "Peer Gynt" also served as a basis for the theme of the Inspector Gadget animated series.
  • The UK theme park Alton Towers has used the song "In the Hall of the Mountain King" in many of their adverts over the last 15 years and is often played on speakers at the entrance to the park, on the monorail, on the skyride and is used as music in the introductory video played in the Monorail queue line. The company ThemedMusic.com recorded a version of the song as if it were performed by cave men to be used in the new Ug-Land area of the park in 2000.
  • A musical, Song of Norway, based very loosely on Grieg's life and using his music, was created in 1944 by Robert Wright and George Forrest, and filmed in 1970.
  • The 1957 movie musical The Pied Piper of Hamelin used almost exclusively music composed by Edvard Greig.
  • In the late 1990s and early 2000s Nabisco, an American baked snacks company, featured the song "In The Hall Of The Mountain King" on many of their commercials.
  • The U.S. metal group Kamelot used Solvejg's Song theme in "Forever", from its album Karma.
  • The Norwegian metal group Midnattsol also used Solvejg's Song theme in their song "Tapt Av Håp".
  • Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season 5, episode 2, uses a prelude from Holberg Suite

[edit] Selected works

[edit] Literature

In Norwegian:

  • Benestad, Finn/Schjelderup-Ebbe, Dag (1980): Edvard Grieg – mennesket og kunstneren. H. Aschehoug & Co. (W. Nygaard), Oslo. ISBN 82-03-10239-5
  • Bredal, Dag/Strøm-Olsen, Terje (1992): Edvard Grieg – Musikken er en kampplass. Aventura Forlag A/S, Oslo. ISBN 82-588-0890-7
  • Johansen, David Monrad (1943): Edvard Grieg. Gyldendal Norsk Forlag, Oslo.
  • Purdy, Claire Lee (1968): Historien om Edvard Grieg (originaltittel: The Story of Edvard Grieg). A/S Forlagshuset, Oslo. ISBN 82-511-0152-2

[edit] Media

[edit] See also

[edit] Notes

  1. ^ Gretchen Lamb. First Impressions, Edvard Grieg. Retrieved on October 11, 2006. Lamb cites David Brown's Tchaikovsky Remembered
  2. ^ Richard Freed. Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 16. Retrieved on October 11, 2006.

[edit] External links

[edit] Recordings and sheet music

[edit] Podcasts

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