Edvard Grieg

Biography

Born: 1843   Died: 1907   Country: Norway   Period: Romantic
Composer Edvard Grieg, the icon of Norwegian music, left his home in Bergen, Norway to study at the conservatory in Leipzig. There he began his formal musical education under the auspices of Ignaz Moscheles (piano) and Carl Reinecke (composition). While in school, the young composer saw the premiere of his first work, his String Quartet in D minor, performed in Karlshamn, Sweden. Despite being diagnosed with a form of tuberculosis, which left him Read more with only one functioning lung, Grieg graduated from the conservatory in 1862. The composer had an intense desire to develop a national style of composition, but recognized the importance of becoming well versed in the work of the European masters, and consequently relocated to Copenhagen, studying with Niels Gade. He was thus able to remain in Scandanavia, while working in a thriving cultural center. In 1867 against his family's better judgment, Grieg married his cousin Nina Hagerup, a talented pianist, but whose vocal abilities enchanted the composer even more. Shortly after their wedding, the couple moved to Oslo, where Grieg supported them by teaching piano and conducting. He and his wife traveled extensively throughout Europe and it was during a period of time spent in Denmark, the composer wrote his landmark opus, the Piano Concerto in A minor. The premiere was given in 1869, with Edmund Neupert as the soloist. The piece was received with an enthusiasm that would attach itself to the composer's reputation for the remainder of his career.

Grieg admired his literary contemporaries and forged a productive partnership with Bjötjerne Björnson, playwright and poet, with whom he staged performances of such works as Before a Southern Convert, and Bergliot. While Björnson struggled with his output, Grieg met and befriended Henrik Ibsen. The forthcoming collaboration would prove significant for both, as Grieg would supply incidental music to Ibsen's Peer Gynt. The premiere was performed to critical acclaim and eventually led to Grieg's scoring of Peer Gynt into Suites 1 and 2 (1888 and 1893 respectively).

As a result of the success of Peer Gynt, Grieg enjoyed tremendous celebrity and continued to travel extensively, often meeting internationally renowned composers such as Tchaikovsky, Brahms, and Liszt, among others. In addition to a grant he was awarded in 1874, Grieg was able to earn the majority of his money by adhering to a vigorous schedule of recital tours. He served briefly as the music director of the Bergen Symphony Orchestra, and from 1880-1882, held the same position at the Bergen Harmonien. In 1885, Grieg and his wife relocated once again, this time to his native Bergen, Norway, where he built their celebrated home, Troldhaugen. The property, a popular tourist destination to this day, features a secondary building overlooking the water, which the composer used as his work area, as he could only work in solitude. He and his wife summered in Norway and departed each fall for European tours that would last the remainder of the year. Grieg also conducted extensively throughout his country.

Grieg was adored wherever he traveled and lived at a pace that would eventually catch up with him. Grieg died of chronic fatigue, with much credit given to his lifelong health problems, in his hometown of Bergen.

Norway's most famous composer, dedicated his career to the pursuit of a national sound. The respect he had for his predecessors illustrates the sincerity with which he worked towards this goal. He wrote in the Romantic tradition with, in his own words, the determination to "create a national form of music, which could give the Norwegian people an identity." Read less
Grieg, Liszt: Piano Concertos / Litton, Hough, Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra
Release Date: 11/08/2011   Label: Hyperion  
Catalog: 67824   Number of Discs: 1
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Franck, Grieg, Dvorak: Violin Sonatas / Capucon, Buniatishvili
Release Date: 10/28/2014   Label: Erato  
Catalog: 625018   Number of Discs: 1
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To My Friends - Brahms, Grieg, Loewe, Wolf / Elisabeth Schwarzkopf
Release Date: 11/14/2006   Label: London/Decca Jubilee  
Catalog: 000787802   Number of Discs: 1
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Grieg: String Quartets / Chilingirian Quartet
Release Date: 09/11/2007   Label: Helios  
Catalog: 55299   Number of Discs: 1
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Tchaikovsky, Grieg: Piano Concertos / Stewart Goodyear
Release Date: 06/10/2014   Label: Steinway & Sons  
Catalog: 30035   Number of Discs: 1
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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 Read more 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. Read less

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