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Edvard Grieg

2007 is the year of celebrations and events, at national and international level, designed to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Edvard Grieg’s death. Grieg is Norway’s most famous composer, but did you know he is of Scottish heritage?

Edvard Hagerup Grieg was born on the 15th of June 1843 in Bergen, where his father, Alexander Greig, was English consul. The Greig family were of Scottish origin, but the composer's grandfather, a supporter of the Pretender, left his home at Aberdeen after Charles Edward's defeat at Culloden, and went to Bergen in 1770. The family name was originally Greig (from McGregor), but Alexander allegedly changed it to Grieg to make it easier for the Norwegians to pronounce.

The composer's mother, Gesine Hagerup, belonged to a pure Norwegian peasant family; and it is from the mother rather than from the father that Edvard Grieg derived his musical talent. She had been educated as a pianist and began to give her son lessons on the pianoforte when he was six years of age. His first composition, "Variations on a German melody," was written at the age of nine.

The hero in the young Edvard Grieg's dreams was the «fairytale-uncle» - the famous violin virtuoso Ole Bull. Ole Bull's brother was married to Edvard's aunt, but it was first of all through the musical environment in Bergen that Ole Bull and Grieg's parents got to know each other. In the summer of 1858 Ole Bull came on a visit to Alexander and Gesine Grieg at Landås Estate. The event became, according to Grieg, the most important single event in his life. Edvard Grieg had to play for the world-famous violinist, and after he had heard him playing some of his own small compositions, Ole Bull became very serious and spoke slowly with Grieg's parents. After that he came over to Edvard and said: «You are going to Leipzig to become an artist!»

At the age of 15, Grieg enrolled in the music conservatory in Leipzig, where he developed his knowledge of the European musical tradition. He focused primarily on the works of Mozart and Beethoven during his studies, but also spent time getting to know the more modern composers, like Mendelssohn, Schumann and Wagner. He left the conservatory with excellent marks in 1862.

During his 64 years, Edvard Grieg composed many musical pieces, among them the music to Henrik Ibsen’s famous play “Peer Gynt”.  The extensive touring with innumerable concerts, combined with a weak health condition was to put an end to his life. Grieg became seriously ill and was hospitalised in Bergen, where he died on September 4th 1907 of chronic exhaustion.

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Edvard Grieg

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