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Composers Datebook®

with host John Birge

Monday, June 15

Grieg's Lyric Pieces

Synopsis

The Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg was born in Bergen on today’s date in 1843. He is credited with putting Norway on the map, musically speaking, drawing inspiration from the folk music of his native land.

What you might not know is that two famous French composers were fans. Grieg was about 19 years older than Claude Debussy and about 32 years older than Maurice Ravel, but both knew and admired his music.

Despite criticizing Grieg’s Piano Concerto for being too much like Schumann’s, Debussy included Grieg’s Third Violin Sonata in one of his public recitals, praised Grieg’s “Peer Gynt” incidental music, and described Grieg’s songs as possessing “the icy coldness of the Nordic lakes [and] the intensive fire of the sudden Nordic spring.”

Ravel once played some of Grieg’s Norwegian dances for the composer in Paris, timidly at first, but when Grieg asked for a stronger beat, saying, “You should see our peasants with their fiddles stamping the rhythm with their feet. Start over!” Ravel complied, and the elder composer got up and started dancing. After Grieg’s death Ravel said: “Next to Debussy there’s no other composer to whom I feel more related than Grieg.”

Music Played in Today's Program

Edvard Grieg (1843-1907) Lyric Pieces Book VI, Op.57, No. 6. Homeward Emil Gilels, piano DG 449721

Additional Information

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