Edvard Grieg

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Edvard Hagerup Grieg (15 June 1843 - 4 September 1907) was a Norwegian composer and pianist. He is widely considered one of the leading Romantic composers, and his music is part of the standard classical repertoire worldwide. His use and development of Norwegian folk music in his own compositions put the music of Norway in the international spectrum, as well as helping develop a Norwegian national identity, much like Jean Sibelius and Antonín Dvořák did in Finland and Bohemia respectively.

Edvard Hagerup Grieg was born in Bergen, Norway, on 15 June 1843. His parents were Alexander Grieg (1806–1875), a merchant and vice consul in Bergen; and Gesine Judithe Hagerup (1814–1875), a music teacher and daughter of Edvard Hagerup who traveled widely, settling in Norway about 1770, and establishing business interests in Bergen. Edvard Grieg was raised in a musical milieu. His mother was his first piano teacher and taught him to play at the age of six. Grieg studied in several schools, including Tanks Upper School, Tanks School and the N.P.S, Norwegian Private School.

In the summer of 1858, Grieg met the eminent Norwegian violinist Bull Benestad; Schjelderup-Ebbe, who was a family friend; Bull's brother was married to Grieg's aunt. Bull recognized the 15-year-old boy's talent and persuaded his parents to send him to the Leipzig Conservatory. Grieg enrolled in the conservatory, concentrating on the 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.

In the spring of 1860, he survived a life-threatening bout of 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 personal friends.

In 1861, Grieg made his debut as a concert pianist in Karlshamn, Sweden. In 1862, he finished his studies in Leipzig and held his first concert in his home town, where his program included Ludwig van Beethoven's Pathétique sonata. In 1863, Grieg went to Copenhagen, Denmark, and stayed there for three years. He met the Danish composers Johan Peter Emilius 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.

On 11 June 1867, Grieg married his first cousin, Nina Grieg. The next year, their only child, Alexandra, was born. Alexandra died in 1869 from meningitis. In the summer of 1868, Grieg wrote his Piano Concerto while on holiday in Denmark. Edmund Neupert gave the concerto its premiere performance on 3 April 1869 in the Casino Theater in Copenhagen. Grieg himself was unable to be there due to conducting commitments in Christiania (as Oslo was then named).

In 1868, Franz Liszt, who had not yet met Grieg, wrote a testimonial for him to the Norwegian Ministry of Education, which led to Grieg's obtaining a travel grant. The two men met in Rome in 1870. On Grieg's first visit, they went over 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 sight-read (including the orchestral arrangement). Liszt's rendition greatly impressed his audience, although Grieg gently pointed out to him that he played the first movement too quickly. Liszt also gave Grieg some advice on orchestration.

In 1874–76, Grieg composed incidental music for the premiere of Henrik Ibsen's play Peer Gynt, at the request of the author. Grieg had close ties with the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra and later became Music Director of the orchestra from 1880to 1882. In 1888, Grieg met Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky in Leipzig. Grieg was struck by the sadness in Tchaikovsky.

Song Cycles, Symphonies, Collections etc.

Haugtussa (The Mountain Maid), op. 67

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  • Ragna (Grieg), op. 44 ("Reiseminder fra Fjeld og Fjord" af Holger Drachmann) no. 5 (Text: Holger Henrik Herholdt Drachmann)
  • Ragnhild (Grieg), op. 44 ("Reiseminder fra Fjeld og Fjord" af Holger Drachmann) no. 3 (Text: Holger Henrik Herholdt Drachmann)
  • Rosenknoppen (Grieg), op. 18 (Romanser og sanger) no. 8 (Text: Hans Christian Andersen)


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