Edvard Grieg - A composer of classical music

Edvard Grieg - A composer of classical music

Edvard Grieg is Norway’s most famous composer. Actually, he is probably the only internationally known composer from Norway. During his 64 years, he composed many musical pieces, among them the music to Henrik Ibsen’s famous play “Peer Gynt”.

Edvard Grieg was born in Bergen in 1843. His mother started teaching him to play the piano when he was 6 years old. When he was 15 he went to Leipzig, Germany, to study at the Music Conservatory after a recommendation from violinist Ole Bull. Grieg graduated with honors.

In 1864, he fell in love with his cousin Nina Hagerup, who lived in Denmark. They got engaged, but the engagement was not made official until the next year, the lovers kept it a secret because her parents strongly objected to her marrying a poor musician with an uncertain future (however, they didn’t seem to mind that the couple were cousins!). Nina and Grieg married in Copenhagen in 1867.

Like Edvard, Nina had musical talents; she was a good singer. At first, the couple often held small, private concerts where she would sing and Edvard would play the piano. In 1878 they toured Germany, and got a very positive response from the audience; they loved Grieg's music. All of a sudden, Edvard was famous and got invitations to the capitals of Europe, as a pianist and as a conductor.

Grieg traveled a lot. He went to Italy, Poland, France, the United Kingdom, and many other countries. Whilst traveling, Grieg became friends with a number of well-known persons; H.C Andersen (the Danish author behind “The little Mermaid”), Richard Nordraak, Franz Liszt, and Henrik Ibsen. Grieg also composed while traveling: His famous Piano Concerto was written during a stay in Copenhagen, Denmark.

In 1880, Edvard and Nina returned to Bergen after two years abroad. They decided to settle down in Bergen. They bought an estate which was close to the Nordås water, and the Swiss-style villa they built there was named Troldhaugen. The villa was ready in 1885, and the couple moved in in April that year. In addition to the main house was a little hut down by the sea. In this Composer’s hut, Grieg would sit looking at the water outside and compose his music.

Grieg couldn’t compose with other people around him, he needed to be alone with the music. The Composer’s hut gave him peace and quiet at home, but on several occasions he lived almost isolated on farms by the Hardanger fjord.

The style in music was romantic when Grieg lived, that is music and art focused on conveying feelings, imagination, joy, sorrow, dreams and hopes. The national romantic style was also strong, and all over Europe classical composers were inspired by folk music. Grieg himself was much inspired by the nature and by traditional Norwegian folk music. He loved hiking, and a lot of his music describes moods or atmospheres he felt when walking alone in a forest, or on a mountain. An example of this is Grieg’s “Morning mood”, which describes the peacefulness of the sun’s rising. As the sun rises, the music grows stronger.

As the years passed on, Grieg’s health got worse and worse. He died in Bergen in 1907, 64 years old. Nina lived much longer than her husband; she became 90 years old. Edvard and Nina are buried in a cave on their estate Troldhaugen.

Today, Troldhaugen is a museum where one can see the original furniture of the house, Grieg’s photo albums and the piano where he often played. In addition to the villa, the tomb, and the Composer’s hut there has been built a concert hall and a Grieg museum. Troldhaugen is one of the major tourist attraction sites in Bergen.

Pronunciation problems:

Grieg's great-great- grandfather, Alexander Grieg, came from Scotland to Norway in 1770. The family name was originally Greig (from McGregor), but Alexander changed it to Grieg to make it easier for the Norwegians to pronounce.

The Grieg Hall

The Grieg Hall is the major concert hall in Bergen. It was built in 1978, and is named after Edvard Grieg.
Between the trees lies Grieg's home, Troldhaugen.
Between the trees lies Grieg's home, Troldhaugen.
The Composer's Hut here viewed from the shore, is situated by the sea.
The Composer's Hut here viewed from the shore, is situated by the sea.

Edvard Grieg Museum, Troldhaugen



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