Edvard Hagerup Grieg - born this day 1843
Edvard Hagerup Grieg was born in Bergen, Norway, on the 15th June in 1843. As both a composer and pianist he is acclaimed as one of the leading romantic era composers. In particular he was noted for using Norwegian folk music in his own composition, and raising international awareness of his country’s identity.
In Bergen Grieg is highly celebrated, with mutliple statues, ‘Grieg Academy’ an advanced music school, ‘Grieghallen’ a large concert hall, and the ‘Edvard Grieg Museum’ based in his former home.
Raised in a musical family, Grieg displayed musical talent from an early age, and was taught piano by his mother (a music teacher) at the age of six. Through further study his proficiency in music was recognised and, at the age of fifteen, was sent to study music at the Liepzig conservatory. In 1861, at just 18, Grieg made his debut as a concert pianist in Sweden and the next year concluded his studies at Liepzig, holding his first concert in his home town of Bergen.
In 1863 Grieg moved to Copenhagen, here he met a variety of composers, including Rikard Nordraak who became a good friend and inspiration. As composer of Norway’s national anthem he too was invested in creating music with a Norwegian identity, and encouraged Grieg to make his compositions truly Norwegian in their style and melody. During his time in Copenhagen he was fortunate to hear performances from Schumann and Wagener, although he continued to miss his home country. His early performances in 1866 included the First Violin Sonatas and some piano miniatures, before settling in Oslo.
From 1867 and 1901 he wrote ten collections of Lyric Pieces for piano. The rhythms he used, in particular, echoed the Nowegian folk tradition, although his harmonies developed from the late Romantic style. In addition to this he composed multiple pieces presenting variations on folk tunes and themes, and echoing the folk rhythms and harmonies.
In 1874, Grieg composed the incidental music for Henrik Ibsen’s play Peer Gynt, excerpts of which led to the Peer Gynt Suites, arguably now some of Grieg’s most well-known and often played compositions. In addition to this the incidental music also included In the Hall of the Mountain King, and the opening movement Morning which have both now become core concert repertoire.
Despite suffering throughout his life from poor health, having been left with a highly damaged lung after surviving pleurisy and tuberculosis while still studying at Liepzig, he continued to tour internationally, and compose up until his death in 1907. Bergen commemorated Grieg’s death, with 30,000 – 40,000 people taking to the streets on the day of his funeral.
Much of Grieg’s work is still available to buy today, feeling inspired? Click here to see what is available.