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Grieg, Edvard (1843-1907)

Edvard Grieg

born: 15 June 1843
died: 4 September 1907
country: Norway

Edvard Hagerup Grieg. Norwegian of Scottish descent. Studied at the Leipzig Conservatory. Much influenced by Robert Schumann. Based between 1863 and 1867 in Copenhagen. Here he came into close contact with Niels Gade, Hans Christian Andersen and the short-lived Norwegian poet-composer Rikard Nordraak. With their encouragement, Grieg evolved a nationalist style of music with an intense awareness of his country’s history and folk-song heritage.

As a composer, Grieg does not sit on the summit of Mount Olympus with Bach, Mozart, Beethoven and their ilk, but he certainly merits a comfortable dwelling on the slopes. Unusually for a ‘Great Composer’, his reputation does not rely on lengthy operas, ballets, symphonies, oratorios and the like. Grieg is the miniaturist composer par excellence. Though he tried his hand at larger forms—there are sonatas for piano, violin and cello, a quartet, and an early symphony that was later suppressed—he was happiest writing shorter works, songs, and incidental music for the theatre. (Ironically, the single exception to this is his evergreen Piano Concerto in A minor, one of the most popular and frequently performed works in all of classical music.) The German process of composition with its massive structures and complex developments of thematic material was not for him. In the words of the musicologist Hubert Foss: ‘His deliberate smallness is one of his greatest virtues.’

from notes by Jeremy Nicholas © 2024


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