Edvard Grieg

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Grieg, Edvard

 

Born June 15, 1843. in Bergen; died there Sept. 4, 1907. Norwegian composer, pianist, conductor, and public figure. The most prominent representative of the Norwegian school of composition.

Grieg’s ancestors had emigrated from Scotland, and his father was British consul in Bergen. Grieg learned to play the piano from his mother, an amateur pianist. In 1862 he graduated from the Leipzig Conservatory as a pianist and composer and returned to his homeland. During 1863–66. he lived in Copenhagen, Denmark, where for a period of time he was advised by the Danish composer N. Gade. Grieg’s profound interest in the Norwegian folk arts was greatly inspired by the violinist, composer, and folklorist O. Bull and the composers R. Nordraak and H. Kjerulf. In Copenhagen, Grieg, with Nordraak and several Danish composers, established the Euterpe (from the name of the Greek Muse) Concert Society for the purpose of promoting the works of Scandinavian composers. In 1866, Grieg settled in Christiania (Oslo), where he conducted the concerts of the Philharmonic Society and established a special musical school, the Music Academy, and (with J. Svendsen) the Music Society (now the Philharmonic Society). From the end of the 1870’s, Grieg and his wife, the concert singer N. Hagerup. who performed his songs and art songs, made a number of concert tours through Western Europe; Grieg performed as a pianist and conductor. In 1880–82 he directed the Harmonia Music Society in Bergen. After 1885 he lived primarily in his villa Trold-haugen outside Bergen. Grieg met P. I. Tchaikovsky in 1888 in Leipzig, and they soon became friends. Grieg was elected a member of the French Academy in 1889. He was made a doctor of music of Cambridge University in 1893, and of Oxford University in 1906. He was an honorary doctor of the Berlin Academy (1897).

Grieg composed during a period of renaissance in Norwegian literature and art and of struggle by the Norwegian people for independence. He was an ardent patriot and the bard of his homeland. A true folk artist, he raised Norwegian music to the heights of world classic music and creatively reworked and generalized the basic traits of Norwegian folk music, linking it with a distinct perception of European classical and romantic music. The natural talents of Grieg the composer are most vividly evinced in the instrumental and vocal chamber works. They reflect lyrical moods, images of northern landscapes, and poetic pictures of folk life (the ten books of Lyric Songs, 1867–1901).

While doing a great deal of work in the smaller genres. Grieg also devoted much attention to the major forms. His chamber works (three sonatas for violin and piano, the sonata for cello and piano, and two string quartets) and the Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (1868). which brought the composer world fame, provide in their lyrical and national strength a unique interpretation of the cyclical forms of instrumental music. Grieg’s symphonic orchestra works are suites or programmatic miniatures. His best orchestral works are based on literary works and are noted for their poetic quality, musical acuity, perfect form, and beautiful arrangements. Grieg’s two suites for Ibsen’s drama Peer Gynt (1874–75) are world famous; the composer provided his own poetic reading of the text, intensifying its lyric qualities. Grieg wrote an operatic work (Olaf Trygvason, 1873; incomplete concert version. 1889) and music for the theater (the drama Sigurd Jorsalfar, 1872) based on the poetry of B. Bjørnson; these works gave musical form to the images of the Norwegian epic.

Grieg’s vocal works are also vast and original, running from the simple lyric song (“Solveig’s Song”) to the psychologically profound vocal cycle (Girl From the Mountains). The lyric and art songs were set predominantly to the words of Scandinavian poets (Ibsen. Bjørnson. A. Munch. A. Garborg. A. Vinje. H. C. Andersen, and H. Drachmann).

Grieg also composed choral works, arrangements of Norwegian songs and dances for piano, arrangements of several of his orchestral and vocal works for the piano, and transcriptions of four Mozart sonatas for two pianos and four hands. He published a number of articles devoted to Norwegian and Danish composers, as well as R. Wagner. Mozart. Schumann, and Verdi.

WORKS

Artikler og taler. Oslo, 1957.
Izbr. slat’i i pis’ma. Moscow, 1966. (Translated [from Norwegian].)

REFERENCES

Findeizen, N. Edvard Grig: Ocherk ego zhizni i muzykal’noi deiatel’nosti. St. Petersburg-Moscow. 1908.
Asaf’ev, B. V. Grig. Moscow-Leningrad. 1948.
Kremlev, lu. Edvard Grig. Moscow. 1958.
Levasheva. O. Edvard Grig. Moscow. 1962.
Finck. H. T. Edvard Grieg. Stuttgart. 1908.
Schjelderup. G., and W. Niemann. Grieg. Leipzig. 1908.
Johansen, D. M. Edvard Grieg. Oslo. 1956.

O. E. LEVASHEVA