This Thursday, March 7th at 7:00pm, The Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra is performing a rarely heard symphony by the fantastic Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg, his Symphony in C minor.  As we lead up to the WSO’s performance of this fresh youthful work, Classic 107 will explore Grieg’s other orchestral writing in the 1:00pm hour all this week on Intermezzo. Tune in as we put to air some of his most well-known and beloved music.

Monday, March 4: Lyric Suite (1891, 1904)

  1. Shepherd's Boy
  2. Gangar
  3. Nocturne
  4. March of the Dwarfs


Grieg was master of the piano miniature, as evidenced in his ten books of Lyric Pieces. In 1903 Grieg got hold of the score of the Norwegian Suite, an orchestration of four of his Lyric Pieces for piano from his fifth book. This was an orchestration done by the Hungarian-born conductor Anton Seidl. On 3 June 1905 Grieg wrote to Seidl’s widow:

‘This orchestration is excellent in itself; nevertheless, in accordance with my own intentions, I have made many revisions in some of the pieces, while others I have left out altogether or orchestrated afresh.’

In this way Grieg created his Lyric Suite, Op. 54 (1904). In the final version he replaced the sound-experiment Klokkeklang (Ringing Bells) with Gjetergutt (Shepherd Boy) and changed the order of the movements. He included the Lyric Suite in many concerts he conducted towards the end of his life.

Tuesday March 5: Peer Gynt Suites no1 and no2 (1875, and 1891)

Peer Gynt Suite No. 1

  1. Morning Mood
  2. Ase's Death
  3. Anitra's Dance
  4. In the Hall of the Mountain King


Peer Gynt Suite No. 2

  1. The Abduction of the Bride – Ingrid's Lament
  2. Arabian Dance
  3. Peer Gynt's Homecoming (Stormy Evening on the Sea)
  4. Solveig's Song


Grieg wrote the incidental music for Norwegian playwright Henry Ibsen’s ‘Peer Gynt’ in 1895. The music premiered with the play in Christiana (now Oslo) in 1876. Grieg at first was reluctant to except the commission, but in the end he relented, and struggled to start the project:


"Peer Gynt" progresses slowly, and there is no possibility of having it finished by autumn. It is a terribly unmanageable subject.

— Edvard Grieg (August 1874)


Once he got started however, he realized that the subject matter was so infused with Norwegian character and spirit, that he knew he was the right man for the job. The play the music ended up being huge success when it was premiered. The music was so popular that it caused Grieg to select eight selections from the music and create two suites of music. Today this music is very often herd in pop culture and is considered his most well-known music.


Wednesday, March 6: Symphonic Dances (1896-1898)

  1. Allegro moderato e marcato
  2. Allegretto grazioso
  3. Allegro giocoso
  4. Andante - Allegro molto e risoluto


Grieg had great respect for his countryman Johan Svendsen’s Norwegian Rhapsodies from the 1870s. These works demonstrated Norwegian folk-melodies could effectively be orchestrated and used for symphonic concert performances.

Norwegian folk melodies would also serve as the catalyst to the composition the Symphonic Dances of 1898. Grieg asked his good friend Svendsen to conduct the first performance of this music, which he happily did in that same year.

The tempo markings and structure of the dances as a set suggests that Grieg might have been hinting at a symphonic form. There is no sonata form movement however, and in fact all of the dances are in ABA form.

Grieg drew many of the folk melodies that he uses in the set from the anthology of dances collected by the Norwegian composer and ethnomusicologist Ludvig Mathias Lindeman. This is the same place Svendsen got much of his own source material for the Norwegian Rhapsodies.

Thursday, March 7: Norwegian Dances (1881)

  1. Allegro marcato
  2. Allegretto tranquillo e grazioso
  3. Allegro moderato alla marcia
  4. Allegro molto


Grieg would also turn to Lindeman as a source for his Norwegian Dances. This time he drew from Lindeman’s ‘Collection of Norwegian Mountain Melodies Old and New’ (1853).

Originally written for piano four-hands, the music publisher Peters Edition, suggested that the music be orchestrated by the Czech composer Hans Sitt. (1850-1922) Grieg was lukewarm to the idea, he thought that if the music was going to be orchestrated, it should be done by a Frenchman; Eduard Lalo was his first choice. In the end though, the music was orchestrated by Sitt and published by Peters Edition in 1891.

Friday, March 8: From Holberg’s Suite (1884-1885)

  1. Prelude
  2. Sarabande
  3. Gavotte
  4. Air
  5. Rigaudon

For the celebrations in 1884 of the 200th birthday of the Dano-Norwegian playwright, philosopher and historian Ludvig Holberg (1684–1754), both Grieg and Svendsen composed cantatas, and in Denmark Niels Wilhelm Gade (1817–90) wrote his four-movement suite Holbergiana.  But it is the suite Grieg wrote that same year, From Holberg’s Time, Op. 40, that is still frequently performed today.

Grieg drew on nature, Rococo and baroque influences for this music. He wanted the music to reflect the time that Holberg lived in.

Between French and Italian models, Grieg drew inspiration from a wide range of composers such as the Scarlattis, J.S. Bach, Handel, Couperin and Rameau. The music is completely recognizable as Grieg but it has the mixture of past influences as well. This is music that is completely compelling and delightful to listen to.

Take a trip to Norway all this week at 1:00pm with the music Grieg.