The Norwegian Dances (4), Op. 35, (1883) of Norwegian
composer Edvard Grieg (1845-1907) are for the most part
based on tunes he found in Ludvig Mathias Lindemans'
folk song collection Mountain Melodies Old and New.
Like many sets of national dances from the nineteenth
century -- Brahms' Hungarian Dances and Dvorák's
Slavonic Dances, for example -- Grieg's Norwegian
Dances were originally scored for piano duet to satisfy
demand for music to be played in the home. They were
later orchestrated by the Czech-born conductor Hans
Sitt and it is in this guise that they are best known
to later audiences.
All four of the dances are in simple ternary form.
Three of the four -- the first, third, and fourth --
have quick outer sections and slower inner sections
while the second reverses this order. Taken as a whole,
the Norwegian Dances are in symphonic form, that is,
the first and fourth dances (Allegro marcato and
Allegro molto) are more expansive and more developed
while the two central dances are like the Intermezzo's
central movements of Brahms' symphonies with the second
(Allegretto tranquillo e grazioso) taking the place of
a slow movement and the third (Allegro moderato alla
Marcia) serving as a march-like Scherzo ŕ la the later
march-scherzos of Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 6.
Like all of Grieg's best music, the Norwegian Dances
are filled with achingly beautiful tunes set to supple
chromatic harmonies, joyously festive tunes above
cheerful rhythms, and the occasional faux-frightening
tunes with skittering harmonies. At least two sections
of the dances -- the cheerful opening of the first
dance and insouciant opening of the second -- are
nearly as well-known as the first Peer Gynt Suite or
the Holberg Suite.
Although originally created for Piano Duet, I created
this Excerpt from the Norwegian Dance in A Major (Op.
35 No. 2) for Clarinet & Strings (2 Violins, Viola &