Edvard Grieg, born in Bergen, Norway, received music lessons from his mother at the age of six. In 1853 he was sent to the Leipzig Conservatoire where he studied piano and composition. He did not enjoy life at the Conservatoire; in 1860 he had to take time off after suffering a violent attack of pleurisy that left him with recurring respiratory troubles. He returned to Norway in 1862 and the following year traveled to Copenhagen in order to forge a career as a pianist. There he met his cousin and future wife, Nina Hagerup. At this time Norwegian culture was heavily overshadowed by Danish influence. As Grieg grew older, however, he became increasingly conscious of the musical potential of his own country's folk-culture and began to promote Norwegian nationalism by writing pieces based on traditional popular music.
In 1867 he produced his first set of miniature pieces for piano, the Lyric
Pieces, which consists of eight short movements in contrasting moods. Over
the course of his life he wrote nine further collections under the same title,
each gathering together between six and eight short but beautifully constructed
movements of an individual character. The following year Grieg finished what has
become one of his best-known pieces, the Piano Concerto in A minor. It is
a striking and technically demanding work that retains much of its original
freshness even today.
Grieg started work on the suite Peer Gynt when the playwright Ibsen asked him to provide music for his play of that name. The first performance in 1876 was a resounding success and made Grieg into a national figure overnight. In the same year he attended and thoroughly enjoyed the first performance of Wagner's cycle of four operas, Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring Cycle). Yet musically the two composers could not be further apart: Wagner produced colossal pieces lasting over four hours while Grieg concentrated on concise and beautiful miniatures.
In 1884 Grieg
accepted a commission to write a piece to commemorate the bicentenary of the
birth of the Norwegian philosopher and playwriter, Ludvig Holberg. The resulting
Holberg Suit is a five-movement piece for piano written in the manner of
an eighteenth-century dance suit. Several months later he arranged ut for string
orchestra, in which form the lyrical and graceful music has become
By 1885 Grieg had established a considerable reputation. He built himself a house at Troldhaugen, where he lived for the rest of his life. Over the next 20 years he managed to established a pattern of composing in the spring and early summer, fitting in a walking holiday in late summer and then spending the autumn and winter on lengthy concert tours. The impulse to travel never left him and even in his final years he continued with grueling concert schedules around Europe. In the last year of his life he visited Berlin and Kiel; he was making plans to leave for England when was taken ill and died. He was buried near his house in the wall of a cliff which overhangs a fjord.
Grieg shied away from the larger forms of musical expression, such as the symphony and opera, but in his preferred field - as a miniaturist - he is without equal. His music, highly individual and with a nationalist flavour, has almost universal appeal.
Best of Grieg
Piano Concerto in A minor
Grieg/Schumann: Piano Concertos
Peer Gynt Suites 1 & 2; In Autumn; Symphonic Dances
Orchestral and Chamber Pieces
The Long, Long Winter Night - Norwegian Piano Works (other composers as well)
Complete Chamber Music
Grieg: Complete Piano Music
Grieg: Holberg Suite
Norwegian Folk Tunes
Wedding Day at Troldhaugen
Sketches of Norwegian Life