Edvard Grieg

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Edvard Grieg
Edvard Grieg portrait (cropped).jpg
Born(1843-06-15)15 June 1843
Bergen, Sweden-Norway
Died4 September 1907(1907-09-04) (aged 64)
Bergen, Norway
  • Composer
  • pianist
Works List of compositions
(m. 1867)

Edvard Hagerup Grieg ( /ɡrɡ/ GREEG, Norwegian: [ˈɛ̀dvɑʈˈhɑ̀ːɡərʉpˈɡrɪɡː] ; 15 June 1843 4 September 1907) was a Norwegian composer and pianist. He is widely considered one of the leading Romantic era composers, and his music is part of the standard classical repertoire worldwide. His use of Norwegian folk music in his own compositions brought the music of Norway to fame, as well as helping to develop a national identity, much as Jean Sibelius did in Finland and Bedřich Smetana in Bohemia. [1]


Grieg is the most celebrated person from the city of Bergen, with numerous statues that depict his image and many cultural entities named after him: the city's largest concert building (Grieg Hall), its most advanced music school (Grieg Academy) and its professional choir (Edvard Grieg Kor). The Edvard Grieg Museum at Grieg's former home, Troldhaugen, is dedicated to his legacy. [2] [3] [4] [5]


Statue of Grieg by Ingebrigt Vik in Bergen Ingebrigt Vik-Edvard Grieg-Bergen.jpg
Statue of Grieg by Ingebrigt Vik in Bergen
Edvard Grieg (1891), portrait by Eilif Peterssen Eilif Peterssen-Edvard Grieg 1891.jpg
Edvard Grieg (1891), portrait by Eilif Peterssen

Edvard Hagerup Grieg was born in Bergen, Norway (then part of Sweden–Norway). His parents were Alexander Grieg (1806–1875), a merchant and the British Vice-Consul in Bergen, and Gesine Judithe Hagerup (1814–1875), a music teacher and daughter of solicitor and politician Edvard Hagerup. [6] [7] The family name, originally spelled Greig, is associated with the Scottish Clann Ghriogair (Clan Gregor). [8] After the Battle of Culloden in Scotland in 1746, Grieg's great-grandfather, Alexander Greig (1739-1803), [9] travelled widely before settling in Norway about 1770 and establishing business interests in Bergen. Grieg's paternal great-great-grandparents, John (1702-1774) and Anne (1704-1784), [10] are buried in the abandoned churchyard of the ruinous Church of St Ethernan in Rathen, Aberdeenshire, Scotland. [11]

Edvard Grieg was raised in a musical family. His mother was his first piano teacher and taught him to play when he was aged six. He studied in several schools, including Tanks Upper Secondary School. [12]

During the summer of 1858, Grieg met the eminent Norwegian violinist Ole Bull, [13] who was a family friend; Bull's brother was married to Grieg's aunt. [14] Bull recognized the 15-year-old boy's talent and persuaded his parents to send him to the Leipzig Conservatory, [13] the piano department of which was directed by Ignaz Moscheles. [15]

Grieg enrolled in the conservatory, concentrating on piano, and enjoyed the many concerts and recitals given in Leipzig. He disliked the discipline of the conservatory course of study. An exception was the organ, which was mandatory for piano students. About his study in the conservatory, he wrote to his biographer, Aimar Grønvold, in 1881: "I must admit, unlike Svendsen, that I left Leipzig Conservatory just as stupid as I entered it. Naturally, I did learn something there, but my individuality was still a closed book to me." [16]

During the spring of 1860, he survived two life-threatening lung diseases, pleurisy and tuberculosis. Throughout his life, Grieg's health was impaired by a destroyed left lung and considerable deformity of his thoracic spine. He suffered from numerous respiratory infections, and ultimately developed combined lung and heart failure. Grieg was admitted many times to spas and sanatoria both in Norway and abroad. Several of his doctors became his friends. [17]


During 1861, Grieg made his debut as a concert pianist in Karlshamn, Sweden. In 1862, he finished his studies in Leipzig and had his first concert in his home town, [18] where his program included Beethoven's Pathétique sonata.

Grieg and Nina Hagerup (Grieg's wife and first cousin) in 1899 Edvard en Nina Grieg 1899.jpg
Grieg and Nina Hagerup (Grieg's wife and first cousin) in 1899

In 1863, Grieg went to Copenhagen, Denmark, and stayed there for three years. He met the Danish composers J. P. E. Hartmann 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 inspiration. Nordraak died in 1866, and Grieg composed a funeral march in his honor. [19]

On 11 June 1867, Grieg married his first cousin, Nina Hagerup (1845–1935), a lyric soprano. The next year, their only child, Alexandra, was born. Alexandra died in 1869 from meningitis. During the summer of 1868, 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 at the Casino Theatre in Copenhagen. Grieg himself was unable to be there due to conducting commitments in Christiania (now Oslo). [20]

During 1868, Franz Liszt, who had not yet met Grieg, wrote a testimonial for him to the Norwegian Ministry of Education, which resulted in Grieg's obtaining a travel grant. The two men met in Rome in 1870. During Grieg's first visit, they examined Grieg's Violin Sonata No. 1, which pleased Liszt greatly. On his second visit in April, Grieg brought with him the manuscript of his Piano Concerto, which Liszt proceeded to sightread (including the orchestral arrangement). Liszt's rendition greatly impressed his audience, although Grieg said gently to him that he played the first movement too quickly. Liszt also gave Grieg some advice on orchestration (for example, to give the melody of the second theme in the first movement to a solo trumpet, which Grieg himself chose not to accept). [21]

In the 1870s, he became friends with poet Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson, who shared his interests in Norwegian self-government. Grieg set several of his poems to music, including Landkjenning and Sigurd Jorsalfar. [22] Eventually, they decided on an opera based on King Olav Trygvason, but a dispute as to whether the music or lyrics should be created first led to Grieg being diverted to working on incidental music for Henrik Ibsen's play Peer Gynt , which naturally offended Bjørnson. Eventually, their friendship resumed. [23]

The incidental music composed for Peer Gynt at the request of the author contributed to its success and separately became some of the composer's most familiar music arranged as orchestral suites.

Grieg had close ties with the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra (Harmonien), and later became Music Director of the orchestra from 1880 to 1882. In 1888, Grieg met Tchaikovsky in Leipzig. Grieg was impressed by Tchaikovsky, [24] who thought very highly of Grieg's music, praising its beauty, originality and warmth. [25]

On 6 December 1897, Grieg and his wife performed some of his music at a private concert at Windsor Castle for Queen Victoria and her court. [26]

Grieg was awarded two honorary doctorates, first by the University of Cambridge in 1894 and the next from the University of Oxford in 1906. [27]

Later years

Edvard Grieg Museum in Troldhaugen Troldhaugen in Bergen.jpg
Edvard Grieg Museum in Troldhaugen

The Norwegian government provided Grieg with a pension as he reached retirement age. During the spring of 1903, Grieg made nine 78-rpm gramophone recordings of his piano music in Paris. All of these discs have been reissued on both LPs and CDs, despite limited fidelity. Grieg recorded player piano music rolls for the Hupfeld Phonola piano-player system and Welte-Mignon reproducing system, all of which survive and can be heard today. He also worked with the Aeolian Company for its 'Autograph Metrostyle' piano roll series wherein he indicated the tempo mapping for many of his pieces.

In 1899, Grieg cancelled his concerts in France in protest of the Dreyfus affair, an antisemitic scandal that was roiling French politics at the time. Regarding this scandal, Grieg had written that he hoped that the French might, "Soon return to the spirit of 1789, when the French republic declared that it would defend basic human rights." As a result of his statements concerning the affair, he became the target of much French hate mail that day. [28] [29]

During 1906, he met the composer and pianist Percy Grainger in London. Grainger was a great admirer of Grieg's music and a strong empathy was quickly established. In a 1907 interview, Grieg stated: "I have written Norwegian Peasant Dances that no one in my country can play, and here comes this Australian who plays them as they ought to be played! He is a genius that we Scandinavians cannot do other than love." [30]

Edvard Grieg died at the Municipal Hospital in Bergen, Norway on 4 September 1907 at age 64 from heart failure. He had suffered a long period of illness. His last words were "Well, if it must be so." [31]

The funeral drew between 30,000 and 40,000 people to the streets of his home town to honor him. Obeying his wish, his own Funeral March in Memory of Rikard Nordraak was played with orchestration by his friend Johan Halvorsen, who had married Grieg's niece. In addition, the Funeral March movement from Chopin's Piano Sonata No. 2 was played. Grieg was cremated in the first Norwegian crematorium opened in Bergen just that year, and his ashes were entombed in a mountain crypt near his house, Troldhaugen. After the death of his wife, her ashes were placed alongside his. [6]

Edvard Grieg and his wife were Unitarians and Nina attended the Unitarian church in Copenhagen after his death. [32] [33]

A century after his death, Grieg's legacy extends beyond the field of music. There is a large sculpture of Grieg in Seattle, while one of the largest hotels in Bergen (his hometown) is named Quality Hotel Edvard Grieg and a large crater on the planet Mercury is named after Grieg.


Some of Grieg's early works include a symphony (which he later suppressed) and a piano sonata. He wrote three violin sonatas and a cello sonata. [6]

Grieg composed the incidental music for Henrik Ibsen's play Peer Gynt , which includes the excerpts "In the Hall of the Mountain King" and "Morning Mood." In an 1874 letter to his friend Frants Beyer, Grieg expressed his unhappiness with "Dance of the Mountain King's Daughter," one of the movements in the Peer Gynt incidental music, writing "I have also written something for the scene in the hall of the mountain King – something that I literally can't bear listening to because it absolutely reeks of cow-pies, exaggerated Norwegian nationalism, and trollish self-satisfaction! But I have a hunch that the irony will be discernible." [34]

Grieg's Holberg Suite was originally written for the piano, and later arranged by the composer for string orchestra. Grieg wrote songs in which he set lyrics by poets Heinrich Heine, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Henrik Ibsen, Hans Christian Andersen, Rudyard Kipling and others. Russian composer Nikolai Myaskovsky used a theme by Grieg for the variations with which he closed his Third String Quartet. Norwegian pianist Eva Knardahl recorded the composer's complete piano music on 13 LPs for BIS Records from 1977 to 1980. The recordings were reissued during 2006 on 12 compact discs, also on BIS Records. Grieg himself recorded many of these piano works before his death in 1907. Pianist Bertha Tapper edited Grieg’s piano works for publication in America by Oliver Ditson. [35]

List of selected works

See also

Related Research Articles

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  2. "Grieghallen". Bergen byleksikon. Retrieved 1 September 2017.
  3. "Griegakademiet". Universitetet i Bergen. Archived from the original on 31 December 2019. Retrieved 1 September 2017.
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  5. "About Edvard Grieg Kor". Edvard Grieg Kor. Archived from the original on 12 September 2017. Retrieved 1 September 2017.
  6. 1 2 3 Benestad, Finn. "Edvard Grieg". In Helle, Knut (ed.). Norsk biografisk leksikon (in Norwegian). Oslo: Kunnskapsforlaget. Retrieved 10 September 2011.
  7. Benestad & Schjelderup-Ebbe 1990, pp. 25–28.
  8. "The Origins of the Greig Family Name". greig.org. Archived from the original on 17 August 2019. Retrieved 4 August 2019.
  9. Nils Grinde. "Grieg, Edvard", Grove Music Online, Oxford Music Online, Oxford University Press, accessed 11 November 2013 (subscription required)
  10. "Edvard Grieg proudly carried Fraserburgh memento with him throughout his life" - Press and Journal, 23 May, 2019
  11. McKean, Charles (1990). Banff & Buchan: An Illustrated Architectural Guide. Mainstream Publications Ltd. p. 137. ISBN   185158-231-2.
  12. Robert Layton. Grieg. (London: Omnibus Press, 1998)
  13. 1 2 Benestad & Schjelderup-Ebbe 1990 , pp. 35–36
  14. Benestad & Schjelderup-Ebbe 1990, p. 24.
  15. Jerome Roche and Henry Roche. "Moscheles, Ignaz", Grove Music Online, Oxford Music Online, Oxford University Press, accessed 30 June 2014 (subscription required)
  16. "Edvard Grieg – Leipzig Conservatory", The Fryderyk Chopin Institute
  17. Laerum, OD (December 1993). "Edvard Grieg's health and his physicians". Tidsskr Nor Laegeforen. 113 (30): 3750–3753. PMID   8278965.
  18. "Grieg Museum". Archived from the original on 17 April 2020. Retrieved 24 June 2018.
  19. Rune J. Andersen. "Edvard Grieg". Store norske leksikon. Retrieved 1 September 2017.
  20. Inger Elisabeth Haavet. "Nina Grieg". Norsk biografisk leksikon. Retrieved 1 September 2017.
  21. Harald Herresthal. "Edvard Grieg (1843–1907)". Norwegian State Academy of Music in Oslo. Archived from the original on 14 December 2005. Retrieved 1 September 2017.
  22. "GRIEG, E.: Orchestral Music, Vol. 7 - Olav Trygvason / Landkjenning / Sigurd Jorsalfar (excerpts) (Malmo Symphony, Engeset)". Archived from the original on 7 March 2021. Retrieved 3 September 2021.
  23. "..About Edvard Grieg | Troldhaugen..." Archived from the original on 3 September 2021. Retrieved 3 September 2021.
  24. Gretchen Lamb. "First Impressions, Edvard Grieg". Archived from the original on 27 October 2009. Retrieved 11 October 2006. Lamb cites David Brown's Tchaikovsky Remembered[ full citation needed ]
  25. Richard Freed. "Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 16". Archived from the original on 1 November 2006. Retrieved 11 October 2006.
  26. Mallet, Victor (1968). Life With Queen Victoria . Boston: Houghton Mifflin. p.  120.
  27. Carley, Lionel. "Preface." Preface. Edvard Grieg in England. N.p.: Boydell, 2006. Xi. Google Books. Web. 1 June 2014.
  28. "Grieg the Humanist Brought to Light", Dagbladet
  29. "I Have No Desire..." Haaretz . 4 April 2002. By Shaul Koubovi. Retrieved 2 December 2017.
  30. John Bird, Percy Grainger, Oxford University Press, 1999, pp. 133–134.
  31. Ylikarjula, Simo (2005). Minä elän ja muita viimeisiä sanoja (in Finnish). Helsinki: WSOY. p. 185. ISBN   951-0-29407-1.
  32. Peter Hughes (4 November 2004). "Edvard and Nina Grieg". Dictionary of Unitarian and Universalist Biography. Unitarian Universalist Association. Archived from the original on 21 November 2019. Retrieved 10 December 2013.
  33. Leah Kennedy (1 May 2011). "The Life and Works of Edvard Grieg". Utah State University. Retrieved 3 December 2014.
  34. Layton, Robert (1998). Grieg: Illustrated Lives of the Great Composers. Omnibus Press. p. 75. ISBN   978-0-7119-4811-2. See also: Tommasini, Anthony (16 September 2007). "Respect at Last for Grieg?". The New York Times . Retrieved 4 July 2008.
  35. Tapper, Bertha Feiring. "WorldCat.org: The World's Largest Library Catalog". www.worldcat.org. Archived from the original on 28 April 2001. Retrieved 1 September 2021.


Further reading



Recordings by Grieg

Recordings of Grieg works

Music scores