Edvard Grieg

Edvard Hagerup Grieg was born in Bergen, Norway on June 15th 1843. He was to die in the same city on 4th September 1907, aged just 64. He is widely regarded as one of the leading composers of the Romantic era and his music reflects the rich cultural heritage of Norway, drawing inspiration from its landscapes, folklore, and national identity. Or, as the New Groves rather bluntly puts it: "He was the most important Norwegian composer during the nationalist-Romantic period". Incidentally, the 'Hagerup' middle name is bracketed in New Groves, indicating optionality -which is just as well as no-one ever uses it and I doubt even 1% of classical music aficionados would know it!

Edvard Grieg's musical journey began at an early age, thanks to his supportive parents. His mother, Gesine Judith Hagerup, was a talented pianist, and his father, Alexander Grieg, encouraged his musical interests. Grieg started piano lessons at the age of six, displaying prodigious talent. Recognizing his potential, his parents sent him to Leipzig, Germany, to study at the Leipzig Conservatory. There, he was exposed to the works of prominent composers of the time, including Robert Schumann and Franz Liszt, who greatly influenced his musical development, whilst he concentrated mainly on piano playing. By 1861, he made his debut as a concert pianist in Sweden, and the next year completed his studies in Leipzig. That same year (1862), he performed for the first time in Bergen itself.

For much of his adult life thereafter, Grieg would spend the spring and early summer of each year composing; the rest of the year would be the time for concert performance tours. His wife was an accomplished singer and Grieg somewhat naturally ended up writing around 140 songs for them to perform together. As an accomplished pianist, it is not surprising that he also wrote an extensive body of piano works, of which his sole Piano Concerto is the standout example. He didn't write a lot of chamber music: only two string quartets exist, for example, and one of them is unfinished. Of his other compositions, the most well-known is likely to be his incidental music to Ibsen's Peer Gynt, which he wrote in 1874/5.

Grieg's music as a whole is characterized by the seamless fusion of Romanticism and Norwegian nationalism. He felt a deep connection to the rugged landscapes and rich cultural traditions of Norway, and this love for his homeland is evident in his compositions. His works often feature elements of Norwegian folk music, including melodies, rhythms, and harmonies inspired by the country's folk traditions.

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(since January 9th 2021)

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