In today’s video we’re going to take a look at the best music of Grieg. We’ll talk about some favorites and listen through some examples to get you started with this composer.
Over the next couple of months we’ll be discussing the composer Edvard Grieg. He was a Romantic-era composer, often overlooked when compared to giants like Liszt and Chopin, but well-worth exploring – especially for intermediate and early-advanced students.
Music of Grieg: Peer Gynt Suite no. 1, Op. 46: Orchestral
Let’s start with Grieg’s arguably most famous work – Peer Gynt Suite.
Peer Gynt was a play by Henrik Ibsen in 1867 which Grieg’s music was used for. The play premiered in 1876, and several years later Grieg turned the music from that into two suites (basically condensing all the music and extracting it from the dramatic element).
The first suite is the most famous, containing both Morning Mood and In the Hall of the Mountain King. We’ve actually done a piano tutorial for Morning Mood on this channel, so check it out if you’re looking for music around a grade 1 level!
You’ve almost definitely heard In the Hall of the Mountain King. It’s short, catchy, and mysterious.
I love what Grieg wrote about this piece:
“For the Hall of the Mountain King I have written something that so reeks of cowpats, ultra-Norwegianism, and ‘to-thyself-be-enough-ness’ that I can’t bear to hear it, though I hope that the irony will make itself felt.”
Peer Gynt Suite no. 1, Op. 46 – IV. In the Hall Of The Mountain King
Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 16: Piano + Orchestra
Another work of Grieg’s you might’ve heard before is his Piano Concerto in A minor, op. 16.
It was written in 1868 when Grieg was only 24 years old, and like many concertos, is a larger work in three movements. It’s the only piano concerto Grieg ever completed in his lifetime. To this day it remains one of the most popular piano concertos of all time.
Robert Schumann has a piano concerto in the same key, and the two are often compared to each other (it’s the only concerto Schumann wrote for the piano as well).
Grieg’s came second, after hearing Clara Schumann (Robert’s wife) perform it in 1858. He was heavily influenced by this, and was also taught piano by a friend of Schumann’s – so it’s not that surprising that his concerto shared a likeness.
In 1870, Grieg traveled to Rome and met up with Liszt. Liszt proceeded to sight read the piece at a piano party, and said nice things about it.
Interestingly, this was the first piano concertos – of all piano concertos – to be recorded in 1909 (it was a heavily shortened version).
Grieg continued to revise this piece, making many edits, until he died. The version that we know and love today was completed just weeks before his death.
Grieg’s Norwegian roots can be heard throughout this concerto – such as in the introduction. Here we see notes in groups of 3 – a minor 2nd followed by a major 3rd (a common thing Norwegian folk songs). Let’s take a listen to the intro!
Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 16 – I. Allegro molto moderato
Lyric Pieces – Book VIII, Op. 65: Piano
Most students of piano – especially intermediate students – have come across Grieg’s Lyric Pieces. They’re iconic, and are wonderful short pieces varying in difficulty from grade 5-10 – very approachable, especially when compared to composers like Liszt and Chopin.
There are 10 volumes of Lyric Pieces, published between 1867 and 1901, with 66 pieces between the 10 volumes.
One of the most popular Lyric Pieces is Wedding Day at Troldhaugen. It’s the 6th piece in the 8th book (op. 65 no. 6). It’s one of the more difficult pieces, at a grade 10 level.
It was originally titled “The well-wishers are coming” and was written in 1896 to celebrate 25 years of marriage between Grieg and his wife Nina.
The first section of the piece is very lively and what you’d expect – jolly, optimistic – and the second section is much more reflective.
Let’s take a listen to that very recognizable first bit!
Scene 10 Audio
Lyric Pieces, Op. 65 – VI. Wedding Day at Troldhaugen
Violin Sonata No. 3 in C minor, Op. 45
Finally, let’s have a look at Grieg’s Violin Sonata no. 3 in C minor, op. 45.
This was the final violin sonata he wrote (and the final piece he wrote in sonata form), which he begun in 1886 and took him several months. It’s the most popular of the three and is considered standard violin repertoire – Grieg himself was also very fond of it.
The premiere featured Grieg at the piano (he was a gifted pianist) with the famed Adolph Brodsky on the violin.
We’re going to listen to a bit of the first movement, with a loud and heroic intro.
Violin Sonata no. 3, Op. 45 – I. Allegro molto ed appasionata
I hope you enjoyed this brief tour through some of Grieg’s music, which I think is essential for any pianist to become familiar with.
Stay tuned for more Grieg, and I’ll catch you in the next one!