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Edvard Grieg

(1843 - 1907)

Grieg was born in Bergen, Norway on 15 June 1843.

Edvard Grieg is the most important Norwegian composer of the later 19th century, a period of growing national consciousness.

As a child, he was encouraged by the violinist Ole Bull, a friend of his parents, and studied at the Leipzig Conservatory on his suggestion.

After a period at home in Norway he moved to Copenhagen and it was there that he met the young composer Rikard Nordraak, an enthusiastic champion of Norwegian music and a decisive influence on him.

Grieg's own performances of Norwegian music, often with his wife, the singer Nina Hagerup, established him as a leading figure in the music of his own country, bringing subsequent collaboration in the theatre with Bjornson and with Ibsen.

He continued to divide his time between composition and activity in the concert-hall until his death.

Edvard Grieg died in the autumn of 1907, aged 64, after a long period of illness.

His final words were "Well, if it must be so".

The funeral drew between 30,000 and 40,000 people out on the streets of his home town to honor him.

Following his wish, his own funeral march for Rikard Nordraak was played in an orchestration by his friend Johan Halvorsen.

In addition, the funeral march by Frederic Chopin was played.

His and his wife's ashes are entombed in a mountain crypt near his house, Troldhaugen.

Grieg collaborated with the dramatist Bjornson in the play Sigurd Jorsalfar, for which he provided incidental music, and still more notably with Ibsen in Peer Gynt.

The original music for the latter makes use of solo voices, chorus and orchestra, but is most often heard in orchestral form in the two suites arranged by the composer.

These include Morning, Aase's Death, Anitra's Dance and In the Hall of the Mountain King in the first suite, and Ceremonial March, Arabian Dance, Peer Gynt's Homecoming and Solveig's Song in the second, the order not corresponding to the sequence of events in Ibsen's remarkable play.

In addition to the two Peer Gynt Suites and three pieces from Sigurd Jorsalfar, Grieg wrote one of the most famous of all romantic piano concertos, completed in 1868.

The so-called Holberg Suite, more correctly Suite from the Time of Holberg, for string orchestra, celebrates the Scandinavian Moliere, the Norwegian playwright Ludvig Holberg, an almost exact contemporary of J.S. Bach and Handel.

The two Elegiac Melodies of 1881 are also for strings only, with other arrangements of piano music, and the Lyric Suite, based on four piano pieces of 1891, was orchestrated in 1904.

Grieg's three violin sonatas remain a part of standard romantic repertoire, revealing his mastery of harmonic color in the clearest of textures; the third of these, in C minor, was completed in 1887 and is particularly striking.

As a pianist himself, Grieg wrote extensively for the piano, excelling, in particular, in his ten volumes of Lyric Pieces, and in other sets of short compositions for the instrument, often derived directly or indirectly from Norwegian folk-music.



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