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Edvard Hagerup Grieg was more than just a composer and a pianist in the Romantic Period – Herresthal (2001) calls him “the greatest composer Norway has [ever] fostered” especially particular in a country with no long tradition in art music. The time when Grieg lived, 1843 to 1905, was a difficult time in Norway, politically and culturally. Norway was under Denmark and suffered a period of poverty. Nevertheless, this could have been the ideal conditions for Grieg to develop his natural gifts and become Norway’s finest musician.

Early Influences

It is believed that Edvard Grieg “received music lessons from his mother at the age of six” (“Edvard Grieg,” n.

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d. ). His mother, Gesine Hagerup, was said to belong to “a pure Norwegian peasant family” [and from whom] that [he] derived his musical talent” (“Edvard Grieg,” 2010b). Edvard’s mother was an educated pianist and started giving piano lessons to her son when the latter was six years of age, and during which Edvard learned the pianoforte.

Because of this, he was able to create his first ever composition, “Variations on a German Melody,” which he wrote when he was but nine years old.

(“Edvard Grieg,” 2010b) Perhaps one particular experience that inspired Grieg was the summer holiday he had with his father in Norway in 1858 when he was 15. This experience of seeing “the mountain and fjord” was said to have “exercised a powerful influence on the child’s musical imagination” (“Edvard Grieg,” 2010b). It was also in the autumn of the same year that Grieg “went to the Leipzig Conservatory to study music” Herresthal, 2001), although it is said that “he did not enjoy life [there]” (“Edvard Grieg,” n. d. ). One reason could be that “he hated his piano teacher so much.

” (“Edvard Grieg,” 2010a) Nevertheless, at the Conservatory, Grieg’s teachers “were among the most eminent in Europe [that] four years [in 1862] later he left the Conservatory as a full-fledged musician and composer” (Herresthal, 2001). Although it was Grieg’s mother that may have first sparked his interest in music, his teachers at the Conservatory were the once who perfected his skills. One of his teachers, E. F. Wenzel, taught him the music of the 19th century German musician, Robert Schumann, which influenced most of Grieg’s first pieces. (“Edvard Grieg,” 2010a) Failures and Major Accomplishments

One of Grieg’s first problems while studying music at the Conservatory was that he had to take some time off in 1860 after a violent attack of pleurisy leaving him with seriously recurring respiratory problems (“Edvard Grieg,” n. d. ). His other problem was perhaps the fact that he did not like studying at the Conservatory because of his teachers: his piano teacher Plaidy, his seemingly hypercritical harmony teacher, E. F. Richter, his other harmony teacher, Robert Papperitz, who once called him a “Spohr,” and his violin teacher, Reinicke, who lacked a system of teaching (Finck, 2002, p.

14-15). However, despite this, Grieg pursued his studies to the end. Grieg’s other problems were the long periods of respite all throughout his composing career, because of respiratory problems due to pleurisy (“Edvard Grieg,” 2010a) and he had an unusually weak stamina. In 1883, he was in “an artistic and personal crisis” as he became extremely dissatisfied with his works and he even left his wife Nina Hagerup “for several months” until January of 1884 when both of them “reconciled” (”Edvard Grieg,” 2010a).

After this moment of great crisis, Grieg ‘s enthusiasm came back and he was able to produce the Holberg Suit, which was one of his most famous musical achievements. When it came to his accomplishments, one would consider Grieg’s first composition, “Variations on a German Melody,” written when he was only nine (“Edvard Grieg,” 2010b), as perhaps his very first musical achievement. His other greater achievements began pouring in after attending the Leipzig Conservatory: First, he composed the Piano Concerto in A minor in 1868.

Next, he made the music for the stage play Peer Gynt, which was personally requested in January 1874 by Grieg’s “devoted friend” and Norway’s finest playwright, Henrik Ibsen (Finck, 2002, p. 40). It is said that the first performance of Peer Gynt in 1876 was “a resounding success [that] made Grieg into a national figure overnight” (“Edvard Grieg,” n. d. ). Grieg’s third major accomplishment was in 1884, which was his acceptance of a commission to write a particular musical piece in order to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Ludvig Holberg, one of Norway’s most prominent philosopher and playwright.

The result was the five-movement piano piece known as the Holberg Suit. By the following year, 1885, it is said that “Grieg had established a considerable reputation. ” (“Edvard Grieg,” n. d. ) Last Years of Grieg’s Life and His Death Grieg died in the place where he was born, at Bergen, on September 4, 1907. Since 1900, his health “deteriorated, but he still undertook long concert tours” and “he died, about to leave for England” (“Edvard Grieg,” 2010a). It was actually during around this time that Grieg’s fame and public life blossomed to perfection.

When he died after a long illness aggravated by his pleurisy, it was autumn, and his funeral drew around 30,000 to 40,000 people who honored Norway’s greatest musician of his time. Personality and Character Grieg was an extremely nationalistic man, which may be due to the fact that he was born during the time when Norway was fighting for independence from Denmark. After leaving the Leipzig Conservatory of Music in 1862, Grieg met the Norwegian composer Rikard Nordraak and after hearing the latter’s music, he “dedicated himself to the cause of Norwegian musical nationalism. ” (“Edvard Grieg,” 2010a)

Grieg may have also been a sensitive man for he disliked being criticized by his teachers in the Conservatory, or this is perhaps due to the fact that “both [he] and [his wife] Nina were extremely short, barely five feet tall. ” (“Edvard Grieg,” 2010a) Lastly, Grieg may have also been one idealistic man. At the Leipzig Conservatory, he criticized the lack of system of Reinecke, one of his teachers. He also criticized his own fellow countrymen for their lack of national spirit. He wrote “We Norwegians, especially, usually develop too slowly to show in the least at the age of eighteen what we are good for.

” (Finck, 2002, p. 16) The Setting in Which Grieg Lived Grieg’s great grandfather, Alexander Greig, was a native of Scotland who immigrated to Norway during the war between the English and the Scotchmen in the 18th century. He changed his family name later on to “Grieg” in order to conform to traditional Norwegian spelling. Alexander Grieg, although he changed his name and nationality to Norwegian, was actually a devout Christian and “a member of the Scotch Reformed Church [who] was so strong in his adherence to his faith that he made an annual trip to [his native country] to partake of the communion” (Finck, 2002, p. 2).

This Christian tradition, although not mentioned, may have been practiced even by Edvard Grieg himself. Edvard Grieg’s Swedish ancestor, Kjeld Stub, was a parson, and another ancestor was a bishop named Magister Eiler Eilersen (Finck, 2002, p. 4). This long line of Christian ancestry of Grieg, although not explicitly mentioned in several of his biographies, may have greatly influenced him and his music. In fact, before Grieg thought of becoming a musician, “he wanted to be a pastor [and] to be able to preach to an interested congregation. ” (Finck, 2002, p. 8) The Grieg home was a musical home mainly because of Grieg’s mother.

This was actually the perfect setting for the development of his musical abilities. The fact that Norway was fighting for independence during Grieg’s time may have also had a significant influence upon the young musician’s desire to pursue his talent and to redefine Norwegian music. Best Musical Pieces Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A minor is his most famous work. His In the Hall of the Mountain King, one of his musical pieces for Ibsen’s Peer Gynt was another one of Grieg’s glorious masterpieces. Lastly, his Holberg Suit, which he wrote for Norway’s Ludvig Holberg, was another work worthy of praise and fame.

Conclusion Edvard Grieg was indeed Norway’s greatest musician. Despite his Scottish ancestry, he advocated Norwegian nationalism in his musical works that were heavily influenced by Norwegian folk music. With his mother’s influence, his years in the renowned Leipzig Conservatory of Music, and his uncanny mixture of wit, idealism, perseverance and sensitivity, Grieg was able to overcome all obstacles and make himself the greatest Norwegian musician of his time.


“Edward Grieg (1843-1907). ” (2010a). Retrieved Jun. 2, 2010 from the Classical Net website: http://www. classical. net/music/comp.lst/grieg. php “Edward Grieg (1843-1907). ” (n. d. ).

Retrieved Jun. 2, 2010 from the Passagen website: http://hem. passagen. se/alkerstj/worldofclassicalmusic/romantic_legacy/edvard_grieg. html “Edward Grieg. ” (2010b).

Retrieved Jun. 6, 2010 from the NNDB website: http://www. nndb. com/people/870/000024798/ Finck, H. T. (2002).

Edvard Grieg. Charleston, SC: BiblioBazaar LLC, 2-40. Herresthal, H. (2001).

“Edvard Grieg – Biography of Norway’s Greatest Composer. ” Great Norwegians Homepage.

Retrieved Jun. 1, 2010 from the Metropolitan News Company website: http://www. mnc. net/norway/GRIEG. HTM

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Edvard Grieg. (2016, Sep 11). Retrieved from

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