Grieg was certainly not aloof from the central aspects of Romanticism. The essentially Germanic Romantic notion of emfindsamkeit
(personal expression or feeling) is echoed in Grieg’s choice of texts, which often reflected his personal circumstances, and yet also occasionally coincided with the emerging strands of Nationalism in music (having occurred in the other arts somewhat earlier)—which, in Norway’s case, led to the peaceful and democratic establishment of an independent kingdom in 1905. Good examples of this selection of texts that had a personal resonance with Grieg are found in the early group of four songs that make up his Hjertets melodier
(‘Melodies of the heart’), Op 5, set to the endearing lyricism of Hans Christian Andersen (the title of the set is Andersen’s). Composed in Copenhagen in 1864–5, around the time that he met and was soon (secretly) betrothed to his cousin Nina Hagerup, these songs are the earliest examples of Grieg’s most distinctive and typical song-writing. There is a wonderful freshness and artless originality in these settings, presented in secret to Nina as an engagement gift. Do the ‘two brown eyes’ of the first song reflect Nina’s? One might like to think so, especially in the later musically climactic phrase at the words ‘I will never forget them!’. The third song, Jeg elsker Dig
(‘I love you’), became, in numerous translations, the most celebrated of his early songs. It was this song that spread his fame worldwide, and almost fifty years after the composer’s death it entered the realms of popular music through a beautifully phrased recording in English by Frank Sinatra, coupled with a song by Tchaikovsky. Jeg elsker Dig
is sung here in the original single-verse setting, as Andersen’s text has it; Grieg was later angered at the unauthorized addition of a second verse by later authors, who were presumably under the misapprehension that a song with a single stanza is unacceptable. Unfortunately, these have been copied into almost all later editions, and have thus been frequently recorded.
from notes by Robert Matthew-Walker © 2008