Edvard Grieg |

Edvard Grieg |

Edvard Grieg

Date of birth
Date of death

… I scooped out a rich treasury of folk songs from my homeland and from this, still unexplored, study of the Norwegian folk soul, I tried to create national art … E. Grieg

E. Grieg is the first Norwegian composer whose work went beyond the borders of his country and became the property of European culture. The piano concerto, music for G. Ibsen’s drama “Peer Gynt”, “Lyric Pieces” and romances are the pinnacles of music of the second half of the 1890th century. The creative maturation of the composer took place in an atmosphere of rapid flowering of the spiritual life of Norway, an increased interest in its historical past, folklore, and cultural heritage. This time brought a whole “constellation” of talented, nationally distinctive artists – A. Tidemann in painting, G. Ibsen, B. Bjornson, G. Wergeland and O. Vigne in literature. “Over the past twenty years, Norway has experienced such an upsurge in the field of literature that no other country except Russia can boast of,” F. Engels wrote in XNUMX. “…Norwegians create much more than others, and impose their stamp also on the literature of other peoples, and not least on German.”

Grieg was born in Bergen, where his father served as British consul. His mother, a gifted pianist, directed Edward’s musical studies, she instilled in him a love for Mozart. Following the advice of the famous Norwegian violinist U. Bull, Grieg in 1858 entered the Leipzig Conservatory. Although the teaching system did not fully satisfy the young man, who gravitated towards the romantic music of R. Schumann, F. Chopin and R. Wagner, the years of study did not pass without a trace: he joined European culture, expanded his musical horizons, and mastered professional technique. At the conservatory, Grieg found sensitive mentors who respected his talent (K. Reinecke in composition, E. Wenzel and I. Moscheles in piano, M. Hauptmann in theory). Since 1863, Grieg has been living in Copenhagen, improving his composing skills under the guidance of the famous Danish composer N. Gade. Together with his friend, composer R. Nurdrok, Grieg created the Euterpa musical society in Copenhagen, the purpose of which was to disseminate and promote the work of young Scandinavian composers. While traveling around Norway with Bull, Grieg learned to better understand and feel the national folklore. The romantically rebellious Piano Sonata in E Minor, the First Violin Sonata, Humoresques for Piano – these are the promising results of the early period of the composer’s work.

With the move to Christiania (now Oslo) in 1866, a new, exceptionally fruitful stage in the composer’s life began. Strengthening the traditions of national music, uniting the efforts of Norwegian musicians, educating the public – these are the main activities of Grieg in the capital. On his initiative, the Academy of Music was opened in Christiania (1867). In 1871, Grieg founded the Musical Society in the capital, in concerts of which he conducted the works of Mozart, Schumann, Liszt and Wagner, as well as modern Scandinavian composers – J. Swensen, Nurdrok, Gade and others. Grieg also acts as a pianist – a performer of his piano works , as well as in an ensemble with his wife, a gifted chamber singer, Nina Hagerup. The works of this period – the Piano Concerto (1868), the first notebook of “Lyric Pieces” (1867), the Second Violin Sonata (1867) – testify to the composer’s entry into the age of maturity. However, the huge creative and educational activities of Grieg in the capital came across a hypocritical, inert attitude towards art. Living in an atmosphere of envy and misunderstanding, he needed the support of like-minded people. Therefore, a particularly memorable event in his life was the meeting with Liszt, which took place in 1870 in Rome. The parting words of the great musician, his enthusiastic assessment of the Piano Concerto restored Grieg’s self-confidence: “Keep going in the same spirit, I tell you this. You have the data for this, and do not let yourself be intimidated! – these words sounded like a blessing for Grieg. The lifelong state scholarship, which Grieg received from 1874, made it possible to limit his concert and teaching activities in the capital, and travel to Europe more often. In 1877 Grieg left Christiania. Rejecting the offer of friends to settle in Copenhagen and Leipzig, he preferred a solitary and creative life in Hardanger, one of the interior regions of Norway.

Since 1880, Grieg settled in Bergen and its environs at the villa “Trollhaugen” (“Troll Hill”). Returning to his homeland had a beneficial effect on the creative state of the composer. The crisis of the late 70s. passed, Grieg again experienced a surge of energy. In the silence of Trollhaugen, two orchestral suites “Peer Gynt”, the string quartet in G minor, the suite “From the time of Holberg”, new notebooks of “Lyric Pieces”, romances and vocal cycles were created. Until the last years of his life, Grieg’s educational activities continued (leading the concerts of the Bergen musical society Harmony, organizing the first festival of Norwegian music in 1898). The concentrated composer’s work was replaced by tours (Germany, Austria, England, France); they contributed to the spread of Norwegian music in Europe, brought new connections, acquaintances with the largest contemporary composers – I. Brahms, C. Saint-Saens, M. Reger, F. Busoni, and others.

In 1888 Grieg met P. Tchaikovsky in Leipzig. Their long-lasting friendship was based, in the words of Tchaikovsky, “on the undoubted inner kinship of two musical natures.” Together with Tchaikovsky, Grieg was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Cambridge (1893). Tchaikovsky’s overture “Hamlet” is dedicated to Grieg. The composer’s career was completed by Four Psalms to Old Norwegian Melodies for baritone and mixed choir a cappella (1906). The image of the homeland in the unity of nature, spiritual traditions, folklore, past and present was at the center of Grieg’s work, directing all his searches. “I often mentally embrace the whole of Norway, and this for me is something of the highest. No great spirit can be loved with the same force as nature! The most profound and artistically perfect generalization of the epic image of the motherland was the 2 orchestral suites “Peer Gynt”, in which Grieg gave his interpretation of Ibsen’s plot. Leaving outside the description of Per as an adventurer, individualist and rebel, Grieg created a lyrical-epic poem about Norway, sang the beauty of its nature (“Morning”), painted bizarre fairy-tale images (“In the cave of the mountain king”). The meaning of the eternal symbols of the homeland was acquired by the lyrical images of Per’s mother – the old Oze – and his bride Solveig (“The Death of Oze” and “Solveig’s Lullaby”).

The suites manifested the originality of the Grigovian language, which generalized the intonations of Norwegian folklore, the mastery of a concentrated and capacious musical characteristic, in which a multifaceted epic image appears in the comparison of short orchestral miniature paintings. The traditions of Schumann’s program miniatures are developed by Lyric Pieces for piano. Sketches of northern landscapes (“In the Spring”, “Nocturne”, “At Home”, “The Bells”), genre and character plays (“Lullaby”, “Waltz”, “Butterfly”, “Brook”), Norwegian peasant dances (“Halling ”, “Springdance”, “Gangar”), fantastic characters of folk tales (“Procession of the Dwarves”, “Kobold”) and actually lyrical plays (“Arietta”, “Melody”, “Elegy”) – a huge world of images is captured in these lyrical composer’s diaries.

Piano miniature, romance and song form the basis of the composer’s work. Genuine pearls of Grigov’s lyrics, stretching from light contemplation, philosophical reflection to an enthusiastic impulse, hymn, were the romances “The Swan” (Art. Ibsen), “Dream” (Art. F. Bogenshtedt), “I Love You” (Art. G. X Andersen). Like many romantic composers, Grieg combines vocal miniatures into cycles – “On the Rocks and Fjords”, “Norway”, “Girl from the Mountains”, etc. Most of the romances use the texts of Scandinavian poets. Connections with national literature, the heroic Scandinavian epic were also manifested in vocal and instrumental works for soloists, choir and orchestra based on the texts of B. Bjornson: “At the gates of the monastery”, “Return to the homeland”, “Olaf Trygvason” (op. 50).

Instrumental works of large cyclic forms mark the most important milestones in the evolution of the composer. The piano concerto, which opened the period of creative flourishing, was one of the significant phenomena in the history of the genre on the way from L. Beethoven’s concertos to P. Tchaikovsky and S. Rachmaninov. The symphonic breadth of development, the orchestral scale of sound characterize the String Quartet in G minor.

A deep sense of the nature of the violin, an instrument extremely popular in Norwegian folk and professional music, is found in three sonatas for violin and piano – in the light-idyllic First; dynamic, brightly nationally colored Second and Third, standing among the composer’s dramatic works, along with the piano Ballade in the form of variations on Norwegian folk melodies, the Sonata for Cello and Piano. In all these cycles, the principles of sonata dramaturgy interact with the principles of a suite, a cycle of miniatures (based on free alternation, a “chain” of contrasting episodes that capture sudden changes in impressions, states that form a “stream of surprises”, in the words of B. Asafiev).

The suite genre dominates Grieg’s symphonic work. In addition to the suites “Peer Gynt”, the composer wrote a suite for string orchestra “From the Time of Holberg” (in the manner of the old suites of Bach and Handel); “Symphonic dances” on Norwegian themes, a suite from music to B. Bjornson’s drama “Sigurd Jorsalfar”, etc.

Grieg’s work quickly found its way to listeners from different countries, already in the 70s. of the last century, it became a favorite and deeply entered the musical life of Russia. “Grieg managed to immediately and forever win Russian hearts for himself,” Tchaikovsky wrote. “In his music, imbued with charming melancholy, reflecting the beauty of Norwegian nature, sometimes majestically wide and grandiose, sometimes gray, modest, wretched, but always incredibly charming for the soul of a northerner, there is something close to us, dear, immediately finding in our hearts a warm, sympathetic response.

I. Okhalova

  • Grieg’s life and work →
  • Grieg’s piano works →
  • Chamber-instrumental creativity of Grieg →
  • Romances and songs of Grieg →
  • Features of Norwegian folk music and its influence on Grieg’s style →

Life and creative path

Edvard Hagerup Grieg was born on June 15, 1843. His ancestors are Scots (by the name of Greig). But my grandfather also settled in Norway, served as the British consul in the city of Bergen; the same position was held by the composer’s father. The family was musical. Mother – a good pianist – taught children music herself. Later, in addition to Edward, his older brother John received a professional musical education (he graduated from the Leipzig Conservatory in the cello class with Friedrich Grützmacher and Karl Davydov).

Bergen, where Grieg was born and spent his young years, was famous for its national artistic traditions, especially in the field of theater: Henrik Ibsen and Bjornstjerne Bjornson began their activities here; Ole Bull was born in Bergen and lived for a long time. It was he who first drew attention to Edward’s outstanding musical talent (a boy composed from the age of twelve) and advised his parents to assign him to the Leipzig Conservatory, which took place in 1858. With short breaks, Grieg stayed in Leipzig until 1862. (In 1860, Grieg suffered a serious illness that undermined his health: he lost one lung.).

Grieg, without pleasure, later recalled the years of conservatory education, scholastic teaching methods, the conservatism of his teachers, their isolation from life. In tones of good-natured humor, he described these years, as well as his childhood, in an autobiographical essay entitled “My First Success”. The young composer found the strength to “throw off the yoke of all the unnecessary rubbish that his meager upbringing at home and abroad had endowed him with,” which threatened to send him down the wrong path. “In this power lay my salvation, my happiness,” Grieg wrote. “And when I understood this power, as soon as I recognized myself, I realized what I would like to call my own. the only success…”. However, his stay in Leipzig gave him a lot: the level of musical life in this city was high. And if not within the walls of the conservatory, then outside of it, Grieg joined the music of contemporary composers, among whom he most appreciated Schumann and Chopin.

Grieg continued to improve as a composer in the musical center of the then Scandinavia – Copenhagen. The well-known Danish composer, an admirer of Mendelssohn, Nils Gade (1817-1890) became its leader. But even these studies did not satisfy Grieg: he was looking for new ways in art. Meeting with Rikard Nurdrok helped to discover them – “as if a veil had fallen from my eyes,” he said. The young composers vowed to give their all to the development of a national Norwegian beginning in music, they declared a merciless struggle against the romantically softened “Scandinavism”, which leveled the possibility of revealing this beginning. Grieg’s creative searches were warmly supported by Ole Bull – during their joint travels in Norway, he initiated his young friend into the secrets of folk art.

New ideological aspirations were not slow to affect the composer’s work. In the piano “Humoresques” op. 6 and sonata op. 7, as well as in the violin sonata op. 8 and Overture “In Autumn” op. 11, the individual features of Grieg’s style are already clearly manifested. He improved them more and more in the next period of his life associated with Christiania (now Oslo).

From 1866 to 1874, this most intense period of musical, performing and composing work continued.

Back in Copenhagen, together with Nurdrok, Grieg organized the Euterpe society, which set itself the goal of promoting the works of young musicians. Returning to his homeland, in the capital of Norway, Christiania, Grieg gave his musical and social activities a wider scope. As head of the Philharmonic Society, he sought, along with the classics, to instill in the audience an interest and love for the works of Schumann, Liszt, Wagner, whose names were not yet known in Norway, as well as for the music of Norwegian authors. Grieg also performed as a pianist performing his own works, often in collaboration with his wife, chamber singer Nina Hagerup. His musical and educational activities went hand in hand with intensive work as a composer. It was during these years that he wrote the famous piano concerto op. 16, Second Violin Sonata, op. 13 (one of his most beloved compositions) and begins to publish a series of notebooks of vocal pieces, as well as piano miniatures, both intimately lyrical and folk dance.

The great and fruitful activity of Grieg in Christiania, however, did not receive due public recognition. He had wonderful allies in his fiery patriotic struggle for democratic national art – first of all, the composer Svensen and the writer Bjornson (he was associated with the latter for many years of friendship), but also many enemies – inert zealots of the old, who overshadowed his years of stay in Christiania with their intrigues. Therefore, the friendly help that Liszt gave him was especially imprinted in Grieg’s memory.

Liszt, having taken the rank of abbot, lived during these years in Rome. He did not personally know Grieg, but at the end of 1868, having familiarized himself with his First Violin Sonata, struck by the freshness of the music, he sent an enthusiastic letter to the author. This letter played a big role in Grieg’s biography: Liszt’s moral support strengthened his ideological and artistic position. In 1870, they met in person. A noble and generous friend of everything talented in modern music, who especially warmly supported those who identified national beginning in creativity, Liszt warmly accepted Grieg’s recently completed piano concerto. He told him: “Keep going, you have all the data for this, and – do not let yourself be intimidated! ..”.

Telling his family about the meeting with Liszt, Grieg added: “These words are of infinite importance to me. It’s kind of like a blessing. And more than once, in moments of disappointment and bitterness, I will remember his words, and the memories of this hour will support me with magical power in the days of trials.

Grieg went to Italy on the state scholarship he received. A few years later, together with Swensen, he received a lifetime pension from the state, which freed him from the need to have a permanent job. In 1873, Grieg left Christiania, and the following year settled in his native Bergen. The next, last, long period of his life begins, marked by great creative successes, public recognition at home and abroad. This period opens with the creation of music for Ibsen’s play “Peer Gynt” (1874-1875). It was this music that made the name of Grieg famous in Europe. Along with the music for Peer Gynt, a sharply dramatic piano ballad op. 24, string quartet op. 27, suite “From the time of Holberg” op. 40, a series of notebooks of piano pieces and vocal lyrics, where the composer increasingly turns to the texts of Norwegian poets, and other works. Grieg’s music is gaining great popularity, penetrating the concert stage and home life; his works are published by one of the most reputable German publishing houses, the number of concert trips is multiplying. In recognition of his artistic merits, Grieg was elected a member of a number of academies: Swedish in 1872, Leiden (in Holland) in 1883, French in 1890, and together with Tchaikovsky in 1893 – a doctor of Cambridge University.

Over time, Grieg increasingly eschews the noisy life of the capital. In connection with the tour, he has to visit Berlin, Vienna, Paris, London, Prague, Warsaw, while in Norway he lives in solitude, mainly outside the city (first in Lufthus, then near Bergen on his estate, called Troldhaugen, that is, “Hill of the Trolls”); devotes most of his time to creativity. And yet, Grieg does not give up musical and social work. So, during the years 1880-1882, he directed the Harmony concert society in Bergen, and in 1898 he also held the first Norwegian music festival (of six concerts) there. But over the years, this had to be abandoned: his health deteriorated, pulmonary diseases became more frequent. Grieg died on September 4, 1907. His death was commemorated in Norway as national mourning.

* * *

A feeling of deep sympathy evokes the appearance of Edvard Grieg – an artist and a person. Responsive and gentle in dealing with people, in his work he was distinguished by honesty and integrity, and, not taking a direct part in the political life of the country, he always acted as a convinced democrat. The interests of his native people were above all for him. That is why, in the years when tendencies appeared abroad, touched by decadent influence, Grieg acted as one of the largest realistic artists. “I am opposed to all kinds of “isms,” he said, arguing with the Wagnerians.

In his few articles, Grieg expresses many well-aimed aesthetic judgments. He bows before the genius of Mozart, but at the same time believes that when he met Wagner, “this universal genius, whose soul has always remained alien to any philistinism, would have been delighted as a child at all new conquests in the field of drama and orchestra.” J.S. Bach for him is the “cornerstone” of contemporary art. In Schumann, he appreciates above all the “warm, deeply heartfelt tone” of the music. And Grieg considers himself to be a member of the Schumannian school. A penchant for melancholy and daydreaming makes him related to German music. “However, we prefer clarity and brevity,” says Grieg, “even our colloquial speech is clear and precise. We strive to achieve this clarity and precision in our art.” He finds many kind words for Brahms, and begins his article in memory of Verdi with the words: “The last great one has left …”.

Exceptionally cordial relations connected Grieg with Tchaikovsky. Their personal acquaintance took place in 1888 and turned into a feeling of deep affection, explained, in the words of Tchaikovsky, “by the undoubted inner relationship of two musical natures.” “I am proud that I have earned your friendship,” he wrote to Grieg. And he, in turn, dreamed of another meeting “wherever it was: in Russia, Norway or somewhere else!” Tchaikovsky expressed his feelings of respect for Grieg by dedicating the overture-fantasy Hamlet to him. He gave a remarkable description of Grieg’s work in his Autobiographical Description of a Journey Abroad in 1888.

“In his music, imbued with enchanting melancholy, reflecting the beauties of Norwegian nature, sometimes majestically wide and grandiose, sometimes gray, modest, wretched, but always incredibly charming for the soul of a northerner, there is something close to us, dear, immediately found in our heart is a warm, sympathetic response … How much warmth and passion in his melodious phrases, – Tchaikovsky wrote further, – how much the key of beating life in his harmony, how much originality and charming originality in his witty, piquant modulations and in rhythm, like everything else, always interesting, new, original! If we add to all these rare qualities complete simplicity, alien to any sophistication and pretensions … then it is not surprising that everyone loves Grieg, that he is popular everywhere! ..».

M. Druskin


Piano works only about 150 Many Little Pieces (op. 1, published 1862); 70 contained in 10 “Lyric Notebooks” (published from the 1870s to 1901) Major works include: Sonata e-moll op. 7 (1865) Ballad in the form of variations op. 24 (1875)

For piano four hands Symphonic Pieces op. fourteen Norwegian dances op. 35 Waltzes-Caprices (2 pieces) op. 37 Old Norse Romance with Variations op. 50 (there is an orchestral edition) 4 Mozart sonatas for 2 pianos 4 hands (F-dur, c-moll, C-dur, G-dur)

Songs and Romances in total – with posthumously published – over 140

Chamber instrumental works First Violin Sonata in F-dur op. 8 (1866) Second Violin Sonata G-dur op. 13 (1871) Third violin sonata in c-moll, op. 45 (1886) Cello sonata a-moll op. 36 (1883) String quartet g-moll op. 27 (1877-1878)

Symphonic works “In Autumn”, overture op. 11 (1865-1866) Piano Concerto a-moll op. 16 (1868) 2 elegiac melodies (based on own songs) for string orchestra, op. 34 “From the time of Holberg”, suite (5 pieces) for string orchestra, op. 40 (1884) 2 suites (total 9 pieces) from music to G. Ibsen’s play “Peer Gynt” op. 46 and 55 (late 80s) 2 melodies (based on own songs) for string orchestra, op. 53 3 orchestral pieces from “Sigurd Iorsalfar” op. 56 (1892) 2 Norwegian melodies for string orchestra, op. 63 Symphonic dances to Norwegian motifs, op. 64

Vocal and symphonic works theater music “At the gates of the monastery” for female voices – solo and choir – and orchestra, op. 20 (1870) “Homecoming” for male voices – solo and choir – and orchestra, op. 31 (1872, 2nd edition – 1881) Lonely for baritone, string orchestra and two horns op. 32 (1878) Music for Ibsen’s Peer Gynt, op. 23 (1874-1875) “Bergliot” for declamation with orchestra op. 42 (1870—1871) Scenes from Olaf Trygvason for soloists, choir and orchestra, op. 50 (1889)

Choirs Album for male singing (12 choirs) op. thirty 4 psalms to old Norwegian melodies for mixed choir a cappella with baritone or bass op. 74 (1906)

Literary writings Among the published articles are the main ones: “Wagnerian performances in Bayreuth” (1876), “Robert Schumann” (1893), “Mozart” (1896), “Verdi” (1901), an autobiographical essay “My first success” (1905)

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