Work: I love thee
About This Work
Very much like Robert Schumann, whose music he embraced, Edvard Grieg found his way into songwriting through the love of a woman. In this case, it was his future wife, Nina Hagerup, from whose singing he learned the expressive possibilities of the
voice, whom he considered the only "true" interpreter of his music, and for (and about) whom he wrote his most popular song, "Jeg elsker Dig" (I Love but Thee). The third of Grieg's five Melodies (5) of the Heart, Op. 5, "Jeg elsker Dig" was written in Copenhagen in 1864, to the poetry of the composer's good friend Hans Christian Andersen. It is a simple, guileless outpouring of love, a mere four lines of poetry that go by in less than two minutes; this straightforward and ardent expression, combined with Grieg's natural feeling for melody, is at the heart of the song's enduring appeal. The popularity of "Jeg elsker Dig" presented an opportunity for singers to embrace the Norwegian language and, in the process, the rest of Grieg's excellent songs; unfortunately, it has been most often performed in either German or English translation (the English usually a translation from the German), and so has never fulfilled that potential. Adding insult to injury, Grieg's German publisher felt the song was too short in its original form and commissioned an additional stanza of poetry to be sung over a repeat of the music. The change is neither trivial nor flattering to the song, but it is in this altered form that "Jeg elsker Dig" has circled the globe and won the hearts of so many.
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