Edvard Grieg

Edvard Grieg
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Edvard Grieg

Edvard Hagerup Grieg [ɛdʋɑʁd hɑːgəʁʉp gʁɪg] (June 15, 1843-4 September 1907) was a Norwegian composer and pianist, considered one of the leading representatives of musical romanticism. The adaptation of themes and songs of Norwegian folklore that Grieg makes in his works is typical of this artistic movement. Thus, in addition to making the culture of your country known to the whole world, it helps to create a national identity, as did Jean Sibelius in Finland or Antonín Dvořák in Bohemia. Especially noteworthy are his Concerto for piano in the minor and Peer Gynt, the incidental music he wrote on behalf of the writer Henrik Ibsen for his drama Peer Gynt, or the most intimate lyrical pieces, for piano.

Edvard_Grieg’s Biography

He was born in Bergen (Norway) on June 15, 1843, descended from a family of Scots whose original surname was Greig. After the battle of Culloden (1746), his great-grandfather had emigrated to several places, to finally settle as a merchant in Bergen around 1770.

He grew up in a musical environment. His mother, Gesine, was his first piano teacher. Later, in the summer of 1858, Grieg met the legendary Norwegian violinist Ole Bull, a friend of Gesine’s family and brother-in-law. Bull discovered the talent of the fifteen-year-old boy and convinced his parents to send him to the Leipzig Conservatory to develop it.

He entered the conservatory, focusing mainly on the piano, although he resented both the discipline taught in the conservatory and the classes, too technical, which did not fit his great sensitivity. An exception was the organ class, a compulsory subject for piano students. The stay in Leipzig, however, offered him the opportunity to listen to a large number of the best chamber and symphonic music productions of the time. In the spring of 1860, he survived a severe lung disease, a pleuritis complicated by tuberculosis. As a result, his health was damaged for life. He suffered various respiratory infections, so his visits to spas were frequent, both in Norway and on his trips abroad; In addition, he had several doctors among his friends. In 1861 he made his debut as a concert pianist in Karlshamn (Sweden). The following year, he finished his studies in Leipzig and held his first concert in his hometown, where he performed some technically complex works, including Beethoven’s Pathetic sonata.

In 1863 he went to Copenhagen (Denmark), where he stayed for three years. He then met the Danish composers J. P. E. Hartman and Niels Gade. He also met the Norwegian composer Rikard Nordraak (composer of the National Anthem of Norway), who became a great friend and a source of inspiration for Grieg. Nordraak died shortly thereafter and Grieg composed a funeral march in his honor. Grieg had close ties with the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra (Harmonien) and was musical director of the orchestra from 1880 to 1882. He also saw Franz Liszt twice in Copenhagen.

On June 11, 1867, he married his first cousin, Nina Hagerup, whom he had also met in Copenhagen. The following year, Alejandra, her only daughter, was born. In the following summer, Grieg wrote his famous Concerto for piano in the minor while he was on holiday in Denmark. Edmund Neupert gave a concert of his first work in Copenhagen. Grieg was unable to attend due to the leadership commitments he had in Christiania (Oslo).

In the summer of 1869, while Grieg was passing through Bergen, Alejandra became ill with meningitis and later died when she was only 13 months old. Once Edvard and Nina recovered moderately from the loss, they went to Rome encouraged by the Norwegian government, and were invited to a meeting with Franz Liszt, who expressed his appreciation for Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A minor. Liszt, a skilled pianist, played the piano line and the arrangement of the orchestral part, reading them at first sight and in real time (which is a huge musical and technical challenge). Later, he constructively criticized Edvard’s work and told him: “Stay firmly on your path. Truly I tell you, you have capacity. And above all, do not be intimidated ». This was a very important and encouraging factor in Grieg’s career. Liszt also wrote a testimonial to the Norwegian directors, which led Grieg to get a scholarship.

But while Grieg’s professional life continued, his personal life deteriorated more and more. In 1875 his parents died, an event that unfortunately left both Nina and Edvard without a home to which to return in Bergen. Later, and above all due to pain, Grieg left Nina, but the following year they reconciled and lived together again.

He died in the hospital of Bergen in the fall of 1907, at 64 years of age, victim of a chronic disease in one of his lungs. The funeral led thousands of people to the streets of his hometown to honor him and, according to his wish, the funeral march he had composed for Rikard Nordraak was performed with an orchestration of his friend Johan Halvorsen; The funeral march composed by Frédéric Chopin was also performed at the ceremony. His ashes and those of his wife were buried in a grave on a mountain, in front of a lake near his home, called Troldhaugen.

Grieg House in Troldhaugen, Bergen (Norway).

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