[greeg; Norw. grig]
Grieg, Edvard Hagerup, 1843-1907, Norwegian composer. Grieg developed a strongly nationalistic style which made him known as "the Voice of Norway." He received piano lessons from his mother and later studied at the Leipzig Conservatory. Influenced by N. V. Gade, Grieg at first wrote in the idiom of German romanticism, but after 1864, when the composer Richard Nordraak (1842-65) introduced him to Norwegian folk music, he turned to the heritage of his own country. In 1867 he founded the Norwegian Academy of Music. For his original and characteristically lyrical songs, he used texts by Norwegian poets, and he made settings of Norwegian folk songs that he had collected. His wife, the singer Nina Hagerup Grieg, was an outstanding interpreter of his songs. He continued, however, to write songs with German texts in the style of Mendelssohn and Schumann, a style that also permeates his piano pieces. In 1869, Grieg established his fame as a leading composer with his Concerto in A Minor for piano and orchestra, appearing himself as the solo pianist in its first performance. His subsequent compositions, generally confined to short lyric forms, include the cantata Olav Trygvason (1873) and the suite of incidental dramatic music, Peer Gynt (1876). Grieg's impressionistic harmonies, and his use of short melodic phrases, influenced later composers such as Debussy, Tchaikovsky, MacDowell, and Sibelius.

See F. Benestad and D. Schjelderup-Ebbe, Edvard Grieg (tr. by W. H. Halverson and L. B. Sateren, 1988).

The Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 16 by Edvard Grieg (1843-1907) was the only concerto Grieg completed. It is one of his most popular works and among the most popular of all piano concerti.


The concerto is in three movements:

  1. Allegro molto moderato (A minor)
  2. Adagio (D flat major)
  3. Allegro moderato molto e marcato (A minor → F major → A major)


The concerto is scored for 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets in A and B flat, 2 bassoons, 4 horns in E flat and E, 2 trumpets in C and B flat, 3 trombones, timpani and strings.

History and influences

The work is among Grieg's earliest important works, written by the 24 year old composer in 1868 in Søllerød, Denmark, during one of Grieg's visits there to benefit from the climate, being warmer than that of his native Norway.

Grieg's concerto is often compared to the Piano Concerto of Robert Schumann — it is in the same key, the opening descending flourish on the piano is similar, and the overall style is considered to be closer to Schumann than any other single composer. Grieg had heard Schumann's concerto played by Clara Schumann in Leipzig in 1858, and was greatly influenced by Schumann's style generally, having been taught the piano by Schumann's friend, Ernst Ferdinand Wenzel. Compact disc recordings often pair the two concertos.

Additionally, Grieg's work provides evidence of his interest in Norwegian folk music; the opening flourish is based around the motif of a falling minor second (see interval) followed by a falling major third, which is typical of the folk music of Grieg's native country. This specific motif occurs in other works by Grieg, including the String Quartet. In the last movement of the concerto, similarities to the halling (a Norwegian folk dance) and imitations of the Hardanger fiddle (the Norwegian folk fiddle) have been detected.

Grieg himself was an excellent pianist but the work was premiered by Edmund Neupert on April 3, 1869 in Copenhagen, with Holger Simon Paulli conducting. Grieg was unable to attend the premiere owing to commitments with an orchestra in Christiania (now Oslo). Among those who did attend the premiere were the Danish composer Niels Gade and the Jewish pianist Anton Rubinstein, who provided his own piano for the occasion Neupert was also the dedicatee of the second edition of the concerto (Rikard Nordraak was the original dedicatee), and it was said that he himself composed the first movement cadenza.

The Norwegian premiere in Christiania followed on August 7 1869, and the piece was later heard in Germany in 1872 and England in 1874. The work was first published in Leipzig in 1872.

Grieg revised the work at least seven times, usually in subtle ways, but amounting to over 300 differences from the original orchestration. In one of these revisions, he undid Franz Liszt's suggestion to give the second theme of the first movement (as well as the first theme of the second) to the trumpet rather than the cellos among other changes. The final version of the concerto was completed only a few weeks before Grieg's death, and it is this version that has achieved worldwide popularity. The original 1868 version has been recorded, by Love Derwinger, with the Norrköping Symphony Orchestra under Jun'ichi Hirokami.

In 1882–83 Grieg worked on a second piano concerto in B minor, but it was never completed. The sketches for the concerto have been recorded by pianist Einar Steen-Nøkleberg.

The concerto in popular culture

The opening theme of the first movement was used in the song "Asia Minor", a top-ten pop hit from 1961. The title of the song was also based on the key of the concerto, A minor.

The first movement of Grieg's piano concerto is used in Adrian Lyne's 1997 film Lolita. In 2004, it was featured in a Nike commercial.

The opening piano piece in the first movement is featured in a 2008 Range Rover commercial.

The first movement of this concerto was also used in David Lynch and Mark Frost's cult TV show Twin Peaks season two episode 21.

The second movement of Grieg's piano concerto was used in a series of British 'Bisto Aah Nights' adverts (released August 2006), in which many people vowed to stay home more often for family dinners.

The concerto was used in a classic sketch by Morecambe and Wise featuring the conductor André Previn, in which Morecambe claims he is playing "all the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order."

It is the piece played by the young concert pianist as her first public appearance in the film melodrama The Seventh Veil.

Crossover pianist Maksim Mrvica plays a more contemporary version of Grieg's Piano Concerto in A minor in his album The Piano Player.

The comedian Bill Bailey is a skilled musician, and has used his ability to play Grieg's piano concerto for comic effect; in the TV Series Black Books it is played by his character Manny Bianco, and it is cited as an example in his solo mock-scholarly sketch on cockney music.

Parts of this concerto were also used in the movie, Milo and Otis.

Excerpts from the first movement are incorporated into the number "Rosemary", in the musical How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying.

On April 2, 1951, Russian-born American pianist Simon Barere suffered a stroke and died on the stage at Carnegie Hall in New York midway through the first movement of the concerto in a performance with conductor Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra. It was to have been Barere's first performance of the work.


This performance is by the University of Washington Symphony, conducted by Peter Eros. The piano soloist is Neal O'Doan.   This performance is by the Skidmore College Orchestra. It is courtesy of Musopen  

External links

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