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Grieg: Music, Landscape and Norwegian Identity

Daniel M. Grimley
Copyright Date: 2006
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 258
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    While Grieg's music continues to enjoy a prominent place in the concert hall and recording catalogues, it has yet to attract sustained analytical attention in Anglo-American scholarship. Daniel Grimley examines the role which music and landscape played in the formation of Norwegian cultural identity in the nineteenth century, and the function that landscape has performed in Grieg's work. It presents new perspectives on the relationships between music, landscape and identity. This tension between competing musical discourses - the folklorist, the nationalist and the modernist - offers one of the most vivid narratives in late-nineteenth and early-twentieth-century music, and suggests that Grieg is a more complex and challenging historical figure than his critical reception has often appeared to suggest. It is through the contested category of landscape, this book argues, that these tensions can be contextualised and ultimately resolved.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-472-0
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. List of Musical Examples
    (pp. vi-vii)
  4. List of Illustrations
    (pp. viii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
  6. INTRODUCTION The National Composer as Miniaturist
    (pp. 1-10)

    Composers’ final resting places can often provide valuable insights into their historical reception and the context in which their music was originally created. Grieg’s grave is a case in point.¹ It consists of a simple stone tablet with a heavy lintel, set into the dark granite of a cliff below his villa, Troldhaugen (‘Troll Hill’), looking out over the waters of Nordåsvatnet towards the outer skerries and the open sea. Designed by Grieg’s cousin, architect Schak Bull (nephew of the internationally renowned Bergen-born violin virtuoso Ole Bull), Grieg’s name is carved in stylised runic letters across the face of the...

  7. CHAPTER ONE National Contexts: Grieg and Folklorism in Nineteenth-Century Norway
    (pp. 11-54)

    Grieg has been widely acknowledged as a central figure in the emergence of a distinctively Scandinavian tone in nineteenth-century music. The precise nature of his ‘Norwegianness’, however, is less clearly understood. This is partly because the relationship between music and nationalism remains a problematic issue. As Celia Applegate has suggested, the difficulty is partly one of definition: ‘the meanings of the key terms in the debate, nation and nationalism, are by no means self-evident, particularly when one descends to the ground of specific historical experience’.¹ In any such discussion, there is inevitably a tension between different levels of historical experience....

  8. CHAPTER TWO Landscape as Ideology: Nature, Nostalgia and Grieg’s ‘Culture of Sound’
    (pp. 55-108)

    Grieg’s music is rich in evocations of nature and of open space. Mountain echoes, herding calls or distantly heard folk melodies saturate his work, and are among the most characteristic features of his music. Such musical representations of nature or landscape can be understood within the context of the Romantic Naturklang. Analysis of the ‘Jølstring’, op. 17/5, in the previous chapter argued that landscape in Grieg’s music sets up dualities of authenticity and musical purity that were especially relevant given contemporary debates about Norwegian identity. As we have already seen, the construction of a Norwegian musical style during the nineteenth...

  9. CHAPTER THREE Grieg, Landscape and the Haugtussa Project
    (pp. 109-146)

    The previous two chapters have argued that landscape is both an abstract and representational function of Grieg’s music. Landscape can be constructed through purely musical means, such as particular harmonic progressions and the prolongation of diatonically dissonant sonorities (Klangfläche) to create the impression of temporal suspension, a musical effect which suggests depth and perspective, or it can be evoked through the innovative use of conventional musical signifiers such as herding calls and echo effects to suggest space and distance. Landscape is also a strong element in the contemporary critical reception of Grieg’s work. For example, a biography by the Norwegian...

  10. CHAPTER FOUR Modernism and Norwegian Musical Style: The Politics of Identity in the Slåtter, op. 72
    (pp. 147-191)

    In Haugtussa and the 19 norske Folkeviser, landscape emerges in Grieg’s music as an essentially nostalgic presence. It is concerned, above all, with the evocation of space and distance, and with the suspension of regular musical time, so that it dwells ultimately on a sense of hollowness, isolation and loss. This can be read as a metaphor for Grieg’s own creative conditition, particularly his sense of alienation from perceived mainstream centres of musical progress. But it is more deeply concerned with a powerful sense of regionality, embodied both in the dialect language forms that were synthesised by landsmål and in...

  11. CHAPTER FIVE Distant Landscapes: The Influence of Grieg’s Folk-Music Arrangements
    (pp. 192-220)

    The critical controversy that continues to surround the musical status and cultural value of Grieg’s Slåtter underlines the extent to which his folk-music arrangements resist easy interpretative containment. In spite of the music’s energetic emphasis on achieving a sense of structural unity and symmetry (often of an innovative formal kind involving metrical and rhythmic elements alongside more conventionally diatonic means), many of the numbers from both op. 66 and op. 72 can also be heard as open or unstable. They articulate different and sometimes opposed musical discourses: urban, rural, local, cosmopolitan, modernist, nostalgic and retrospective. It is the tension between...

    (pp. 221-223)

    Previous writing on Grieg has often dwelt on images of landscape and nature. Landscape, in that sense, is central to Grieg’s musical identity. In extreme cases, as the iconography of Grieg’s grave suggests, images of Grieg (or representations of his music) literally become part of the landscape, grounding his creativity in the Norwegian soil. But other more programmatic accounts of music and landscape are no less prevalent in Grieg scholarship. The images of sunlit fjords as a backdrop to the ‘Morgenstemning’ (‘Morning Mood’) from Peer Gynt promoted in the popular media, for example – a travesty of the original stage setting...

  13. Appendix: Haugtussa Texts (Songs 1, 2 and 8)
    (pp. 224-228)
    (pp. 229-236)
    (pp. 237-240)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 241-246)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 247-247)