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The Songs of Edvard Grieg

The Songs of Edvard Grieg

Beryl Foster
Copyright Date: 2007
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 280
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    The Songs of Edvard Grieg
    Book Description:

    Edvard Grieg's 180 songs mirror his artistic and personal development more intimately than any of his other music, yet are still the least known part of his output. This definitive appraisal, now revised and updated, discusses every song, including those left only in manuscript and sketches at the composer's death, set against the background of his life and times. It also deals with the poetry set, often chosen to reflect his current situation, and the poets, several of whom, including great figures of the day such as Ibsen and Bjornson, were his friends and colleagues. Grieg frequently bemoaned poor translations and indifferent performances, and the various editions and translations, from first publication to the present day, are also discussed, together with his own ideas for interpretation. Musical examples and analysis are included to give a closer understanding of Grieg's word-setting and harmonic development, although their performance is always kept paramount. BERYL FOSTER is a graduate of London University and studied singing in Colchester and at the Royal College of Music. As well as all the usual repertoire, since 1980 she has made a particular study of the songs of Grieg and other Norwegian composers, giving recitals, lectures and workshops in Britain, Norway, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy and China. She is also a private teacher and festival adjudicator.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-592-5
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface to the revised edition
    (pp. vii-ix)
    Beryl Foster
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. x-x)
  5. 1 Folk-song to Art-song
    (pp. 1-12)

    Grieg wrote 181 songs; of these, one is no longer extant; another thirty four remained, either complete or in sketches, only in manuscript until the majority were published in theGrieg Gesamt-Ausgabein 1990 and 1991.¹ There are also fifty-eight works for mixed or male-voice choir and for solo voice with choir.² Thus, excluding folk-song arrangements, Grieg composed more vocal music than piano and chamber works together. This alone would make the songs especially noteworthy. Add to it that they were written throughout his life (from op. 2 to op. 70), show all the high and low points in his...

  6. 2 Translation and Interpretation
    (pp. 13-24)

    Almost everyone who has written anything at all about Grieg’s songs has bemoaned the lack of good translations – most especially of translations into English. Dan Fog, the Danish musicologist, antiquary and publisher, in his catalogue of first and early editions of Grieg’s music, wrote: ‘A number of the songs would, moreover, be served by new translations; among other things it can be seen that a number of English translations go back to less successful German translations …’¹ John Horton, at the end of his chapter on the solo songs in his biography of Grieg, speaks of ‘the dearth of satisfactory...

  7. 3 ‘Lillegrieg’
    (pp. 25-41)

    Edvard Grieg was born in Bergen on 15 June 1843, and was to remain extremely fond of his birthplace all his life, although in later years his delicate health could not withstand its climate for the whole of the year. His debt to Bergen and the consequence of being a Bergen man, he extolled in a speech to the people of the city on the occasion of his sixtieth birthday: ‘It is, you see, not only Bergen’s art and Bergen’s science I have drawn substance from; it is not only Holberg, Welhaven and Ole Bull I have learnt from. …...

  8. 4 ‘Melodies of the Heart’
    (pp. 42-69)

    Early in 1865, together with Horneman, Hornbeck and Matthison-Hansen, Grieg and Nordraak founded ‘Euterpe’, a society dedicated to the promotion of contemporary Scandinavian music, borrowing the name from a similar organization in Leipzig. Concerts were given between March 1865 and April 1867, though with less frequency towards the end. In one of its early programmes, on 1 April 1865, the second and third movements of Grieg’s symphony were performed. Being in frequent company with Nordraak helped to bring out Grieg’s talents and led to theHumoresker, op. 6, four piano pieces which were a major breakthrough for the composer’s national...

  9. 5 ‘A balanced mind, a spiritual vitality …’
    (pp. 70-87)

    After the mostly happy, lyrical years, Grieg’s world had been shattered by the sudden death of his daughter from ‘inflammation of the brain’,¹ and it was undoubtedly this tragic event that inspired the songMillom rosor(Amid Roses), which, although written in 1869, was not published until 1884, when it was included in the op. 39 group, theRomancer Ældre og Nyere(Songs Old and New). The poem by Kristofer Janson was written soon after the death ofhisonly child. This andVesle gutwere the only settings Grieg made of Janson’s verse, although a letter from the poet,...

  10. 6 ‘The claim of the ideal’
    (pp. 88-110)

    If for Grieg the early 1870s were largely concerned with solo songs, the next few years were to be dominated by music for the stage; however, in the event it was not Bjørnson who was to provide the longed-for opportunity, but Ibsen.

    The friendship between Grieg and Bjørnson was close, if not without its ups and downs, and the poet’s admiration for the composer was expressed in a verse he wrote in 1899:

    Han gikk her ved min side,

    den store toneskald,

    jeg hørte elven glide

    med en skjønnere fall. …

    (He walked here by my side, /that great tone-poet,...

  11. 7 ‘… Awakened from a long, long trance’
    (pp. 111-116)

    As solo songs, Grieg set more poems by John Paulsen than of any other poet: seventeen, two more than either Andersen or Vinje, three more than Bjørnson or Garborg and six more than Ibsen.¹ Paulsen was born in 1851 and is regarded as a minor poet, frequently not even mentioned in books on Norwegian literature. He was a friend of Grieg from their early days in Bergen, the recipient of many letters from the composer and the author of several volumes of memoirs. Grieg and Paulsen spent the summer of 1876 together, travelling first to Bavaria for the first Wagner...

  12. 8 ‘The Mountain Thrall’
    (pp. 117-122)

    After his holiday with Paulsen in Bayreuth and the Tyrol, and concerts in Sweden with Nina to earn some money, Grieg returned to Christiania early in 1877. Life in the capital was becoming unbearable; he spent all his time there teaching, rehearsing and, as he said in a letter to Max Abraham of Peters, looking forward to the summer when he could ‘go away to the country and work’.¹ Abraham invited Grieg to Leipzig and August Winding asked him to Copenhagen, but he needed more than short periods away. What he wanted was the peace and quiet of a home...

  13. 9 ‘The Goal’
    (pp. 123-143)

    A few months after completingDen Bergtekne, Grieg set off on his travels once more. He had applied for another travelling scholarship in April 1877, which was at first turned down but granted one year later. The journeying began in October 1878, when he went to Cologne for a performance of his String Quartet, followed by other concerts in Germany. The winter was spent in Leipzig where for the first time he met Brahms, with whom he got on well. In the spring of 1879 Grieg gave two concerts during a number of weeks spent in Copenhagen and by the...

  14. 10 Travels and ‘Travel Memories’
    (pp. 144-162)

    The early 1880s were to prove another difficult period in Grieg’s life, both artistically and personally. He was not even really happy in Lofthus any more, feeling, as he recalled in a letter to Gerhard Schjelderup in September 1903, that ‘the mountains had nothing more to tell me’¹ and that the area as a permanent place to live was too confining. Neither was musical life in Bergen much better than in Christiania; the same petty problems of administration cropped up and there were arguments over his salary as director of Harmonien. He conducted the orchestra from the autumn of 1880...

  15. 11 ‘Homecoming’
    (pp. 163-185)

    However weak the Drachmann settings, Grieg was certainly in the midst of a new creative period, and in the next five or six years was to produce more music than for some time. Few songs date from the turn of the decade, however, and none of those that do is a significant contribution to his development as a song composer. Not surprisingly, only one of them appeared in print during Grieg’s lifetime.

    This wasOsterlied(Easter Song), EG 146, written on 7 June 1889 to a poem by Adolf Böttger, which was published by Peters in 1904. The Grieg Collection...

  16. 12 Haugtussa
    (pp. 186-208)

    For the fourth, final and undoubtedly most propitious time in his career, Grieg’s song-writing genius was matched with great Norwegian verse. The lyricism of Garborg’sHaugtussa, with its descriptions of nature and country life, was of the genre that Grieg understood best and to which he responded most successfully. The innate musicality of thelandsmållanguage especially appealed to him, and it is no small miracle that Garborg’s finest work should also have found the composer at the summit of his powers as a song-writer, a combination which culminated in one of the greatest song-cycles of the nineteenth century.


  17. 13 ‘Music’s torch, which ever burns …’
    (pp. 209-224)

    Whether it was because he realized the true worth of the cycle or because after Garborg it was difficult to find any comparable verse in Norway, Grieg set only one more Norwegian poem afterHaugtussa, and his last two sets of songs are to Danish texts. Between 1895, when the Haugtussa songs were begun, and 1900, when the next albums appeared, almost all his original music was for piano. There is a setting of Jonas Lie’sNu Pinsens klokker ringer(Now Whitsun’s Bells are Ringing), written in March 1896 under the titleKristianiensernes Sangerhilsen(The Christiania People’s Choral Greeting), for...

  18. Appendix A Songs by opus number or EG number
    (pp. 225-229)
  19. Appendix B Songs in chronological order of composition
    (pp. 230-234)
  20. Appendix C Personalia
    (pp. 235-246)
  21. Appendix D Norwegian folk-song: musical forms and instruments
    (pp. 247-250)
  22. Select bibliography
    (pp. 251-256)
  23. General index
    (pp. 257-263)
  24. Index of songs
    (pp. 264-269)
  25. Back Matter
    (pp. 270-270)