Edvard Grieg (1843 – 1907)

Edvard Grieg is the best-known Norwegian composer. He wrote in a melodic, Nationalist style and composed some of the most popular Classical works in the repertoire.

Grieg was born in Bergen, Norway in 1843.  His father was of Scottish descent. After early piano studies with his mother, he completed his musical training at the Leipzig Conservatory. He gave his debut piano recital in Bergen at the age of 19.

Grieg developed close friendships with several composers during his lifetime, including Niels Gade, Franz Liszt, Pyotr Tchaikovsky, Frederick Delius, and Percy Grainger, who championed his piano music, especially the Piano Concerto. Grieg showed his manuscript of the concerto to Liszt, who sight-read it and suggested some improvements in the scoring. It became his best-known work and is second only to Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto in popularity. Grieg also wrote a piano sonata and a series of Lyric Pieces for piano which contain some of his more popular melodies.

In 1874, Grieg was commissioned by celebrated Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen to compose music for his play Peer Gynt. Grieg completed the work over the next two years and later made two suites from the score. The suites contain some of his most familiar music, including “Solveig’s Song,” “Morning Mood,” and “In the Hall of the Mountain King.” Duke Ellington even arranged and recorded some of the Peer Gynt suites.

Another of Grieg’s popular works is the Holberg Suite, originally written for piano and later arranged for string orchestra. In addition to these works, Grieg also wrote several pieces of chamber music, including a cello sonata, three violin sonatas, and a string quartet. He also composed several songs, setting the text of authors including Goethe, Ibsen, Hans Christian Anderson, and Rudyard Kipling.

Towards the end of his life, Grieg made several recordings of his own piano music, both on 78 rpm records and on player piano rolls. He died after a lengthy illness in 1907. He was a beloved figure in his home country and his funeral was attended by over 30,000 mourners.

Suggested Listening:

Suggested Viewing:

Leif Ove Andsnes: Ballad for Edvard Grieg.

Suggested Reading:

Robert Layton. Grieg: Illustrated Lives of the Great Composers.