Edvard Hagerup Grieg (1843 – 1907) was a Norwegian
composer and pianist. He is widely considered one of
the leading Romantic era composers, and his music is
part of the standard classical repertoire worldwide.
His use and development of Norwegian folk music in his
own compositions brought the music of Norway to
international consciousness, as well as helping to
develop a national identity, much as Jean Sibelius and
Bedrich Smetana did in Finland and Bohemia,
respectively. He is the most celebrated person from the
city of Bergen, with numerous statues depicting his
image, and many cultural entities named after him: the
city's largest concert building (Grieg Hall), its most
advanced music school (Grieg Academy) and its
professional choir (Edvard Grieg Kor). The Edvard Grieg
Museum at Grieg's former home, Troldhaugen, is
dedicated to his legacy.
Grieg published his Second Book of Lyric Pieces as Op.
38 in 1883. This group stands chronologically between
Grieg's Cello Sonata and the Holberg Suite. At that
time, Grieg was having a difficult time with his
spouse, Nina, and infatuated with Elsie Schjelderup, a
26-year old "bohemian" painter living in Paris. Grieg
left Nina in July 1883, though the intervention of
friends brought the two back together over time.
The finished set contains eight pieces, and these
differ from other sets of Lyric Pieces in Grieg's
offhand and somewhat synthetic approach to their
construction. Grieg's superficial attitude might
reflect the tension at home; other sets of Lyric Pieces
are suffused in emotional expressions, but not this
In the opening "Cradle Song" ("Vuggevise," or
"Berceuse," not to be confused with the famous "Cradle
Song" of Op. 68/6) a simple tune, decorated with gentle
grace notes, is twice played. A more troubled middle
section in the minor follows, rising to a climax which
would surely "wake the baby." However, all is well as
the first tune returns.
"Folk Song" ("Folkvise," or "Folk Melody") consists of
a 3/4 dance step with stresses on the first and second
beats of alternating bars. The melody is voiced mostly
in sixths and thirds.
"Melodie" betrays the influence of Liszt's Libesträume,
and is replete with C major arpeggios and harmonic
rallentandi, typical identifying marks of
nineteenth-century salon music.
More momentous are the two dances, "Halling" and
"Springdans" ("Spring or "Leaping Dance"), that follow.
These are based on traditional Norwegian dance forms
associated with the playing of the Hardanger fiddle,
the "Halling Dance" being in 2/4 time and the "Spring
Dance" in a pattern similar to that of the "Folk Song."
Part of "Halling" bears a resemblance to the first
movement "bridge" in Grieg's Piano Concerto.
We find ourselves back in the salon again with "Elegy,"
which nonetheless has some interesting features,
including a drooping, irregular chromatic figure that
opens the tune and a diminished octave achieved by
pitting an upward chromatic scale against a pedal
The "Waltz" ("Vals") is only a minute long and is in
obvious debt to Chopin, though not as floridly
pianistic as the Polish master. The concluding "Canon"
is not strict, but the melody of the first section is
answered in canonic imitation. The second part harkens
back to the "troubled section" of the "Cradle Song."
The "Trio" of this piece is in the major and is set to
the "Spring Dance" rhythm. There is a bit of editorial
trouble here in that some editions lack a da capo
indication at the end of the middle section; in truth,
the minor section is repeated and a B flat minor chord
is played at the end.
Although originally composed for Piano, I created this
Interpretation of the "Halling (Norwegian Dance)" from
Lyric Pieces (Book 2 Op. 38 No. 4) for Woodwind Quartet
(Flute, Oboe, Bb Clarinet & Bassoon).