Most of the people easy recognize tunes like ‘Morning Mood’ or ‘In the hall of the Mountain King’ as pieces they’ve listened in many occasions in their lives. This music is very famous in the popular culture and appear almost every day in a commercial, a TV show, or a movie. But probably no one knows who is the mastermind beyond these creations.
Edvard Grieg, the responsible for these fantastic scores, is the most famous Norwegian composer. Born in Bergen, in 1843, his music was largely influenced by the local folk, but the influence of the German school are also visible in his works, because of his formation in Leipzig Conservatoire. His legacy consist in a vast collection of piano literature, including the famous Lyrics Pieces, (ten volumes of small tunes with a character similar to a lieder without voice), one piano sonata, diverse arrangements of traditional folk dances, chamber music (three violin sonatas, one cello sonata, several volumes of songs), and orchestral pieces (such as the famous Peer Gynt, written as a collaboration with Norwegian author Henrik Ibsen, for being performed in the theatre play of the same name).
Probably, his better work is the Concert for Piano and Orchestra Op.16, a piece that reached with justice a place between the most celebrated piano concertos ever. It’s performed with regularity worldwide and was continuously played by famous piano masters such as K. Zimmerman, M. Argerich, E. Gilels, L. Bernstein, A. Rubinstein, E. Kissin, S. Richter, among many others.
The main characteristics of Grieg music are the short musical forms, the use of pedal notes, the modulations by thirds and the repetition of rhythm patterns. Various of these elements had strong roots in the Norwegian music: folk dances used to be played in a Hardanger Fiddle (the Norwegian traditional violin), an instrument with strings that resonate by sympathy and allow the creation of infrequent pedal notes. This traditional folk music is also plenty of the repeated rhythm patterns Grieg used years after.
Grieg was one of the first nationalistic composers. His songs are pioneers in the use of the Norwegian language (the danish was the standard language), and he also organized the first concerts in Norway dedicated strictly to national composers. He was a skilled pianist and also worked as conductor of different orchestras in Norway, with a high grade of recognition in the local society, but also outside the country, performing regularly in gigs in England, Denmark, Germany, Italy, France, with the acclamation of the audience.
In contrast with other composers of the period, Grieg didn’t write music for erudite. His music is easy-listening and straightforward for people with any grade of musical education. This helped him to achieve the success as a composer.
He died in 1907 after struggling all his life with lung problems. The main hall of the Oslo National Theatre holds his name.