In 1860 he suffered an attack of pleurisy *, which incapacitated his lungs and initiated a lifetime struggle with illness. His studies suffered, and he dropped out of the Leipzig Conservatory in 1862. He then studied in Copenhagen under Niels Gade. In 1863 he commenced work on his first symphony which was completed a year later. Grieg actually disliked this work, and it is said that he later repudiated it.
Although his music was influenced by Norwegian folk culture it was also influenced by German romanticism. Grieg also disliked what he called the yoke of the Danish language, and cultural influence, and tried his best to remove these from his works. The composer Rikard Nordraak, who composed the Norwegian National Anthem, is given credit for introducing Edvard to Norwegian folk music, and putting his music towards a " nationalistic voice ".
In 1867, against the advice of his parents, Edvard married his first cousin Nina Hagerup. Today this would be frowned upon, but back then it was done more often than you might think. Edvard was drawn to her by her talents as a pianist, and as a vocalist. He supported himself and his new bride by teaching piano, and was the music director of the Bergen Symphony Orchestra, and the Bergen Harmonium. Edvard and Nina had one child, Alexandra, who unfortunately died of meningitis in 1869. Edvard traveled extensively, and met with composers such as Brahms, and Liszt. Liszt actually wrote a testimonial for Grieg to the Norwegian Ministry of Education . By 1869 Edvard Grieg began to grow in fame. First he wrote his Concerto in A minor, then a Cantata in 1873 called Olaf Trygvasson, and then what I feel is his best work Peer Gynt Suite no. 1, Op.46, and Peer Gynt Suite no. 2, Op. 55. Other famous works of his include : Holberg Suite, 1885 ; Haugtussa, 1898 ; and his Symphonic dances, 1898. In Norway he is best remembered for his numerous songs that were written for his native Norwegian language. Griegs legacy can also be seen in later composers such as Debussy, Tchaikovsky, and Sibelius.
Like most great artists Edvard Grieg suffered from depression, probably cause by his ill health, and the loss of his only child. His health became much worse in his later days, and he died on September 4, 1907. The newly independent nation of Norway paid him the ultimate honor with a day of national mourning. He is to this day a national treasure, and source of great pride for the Norwegian people. Even now his music can be heard in the background scores of Hollywood movies. His music lives on to this day because of the greatest of the man, and the timelessness of his compositions. He is a wonderful cultural icon for our Scandinavian / Germanic cultural heritage.
* Pleurisy - An inflammation of the pleura, characterized by difficult, painful breathing and often accompanied by the exudation of liquid in the chest cavity. ( Webster's New World Dictionary )
I truly do love Grieg's music and list below some of my favorite pieces. When it comes to music I am kind of strange. I can listen to Vivaldi's "Four Seasons", or Grieg' s "March of the Trolls", and then just after play Shinedown, Black Sabbath, or Led Zeppelin. I grew up in the 1960' s, and have a great appreciation for all music !
Norwegian Dances Op.35
Lyric Suite Op. 54
Symphonic Dances Op.64
Peer Gynt Suite I Op.46
Peer Gynt Suite Op. 55
Wedding Day at Troldhaugen Op. 65
Piano Concerto in A minor Op.16
and his songs:
Jeg Lagde Mig Sa Sildig
Kveldssang for Blakken
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