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Grieg - Four Piano Pieces Opus 1



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A description of the experience

GRIEG - Quatre pièces pour Piano

The Life and Works of Edvard Grieg: A Lecture Recital April 18, 2011, FAC 214 Leah Kennedy, soprano

Grieg spent four years at the Leipzig Conservatory, founded by Mendelssohn in 1843, the same year Grieg was born. There, Grieg studied with the world’s foremost teachers, including Plaidy, Wenzel, Moscheles, Richter, Papperitz, Hauptmann (who taught in J.S. Bach’s 18th Century home) and Reinecke. Each challenged him in a different way.

From Louis Plaidy, Grieg learned the value of hard work that takes no shortcuts.

Grieg soon chose to work with Ernst Ferdinand Wenzel, a personal friend of Robert Schumann, from whom he learned to appreciate the art of interpretation. Wenzel was his favorite teacher.

Later, Ignaz Moscheles dispelled all idleness from his practicing.

From Richter, Grieg learned the value of rules in music. Once he mastered these rules, he could break them and understand why he was doing so.

Reinecke, the director of Gewandthaus concerts, inspired Grieg to “forget about the can’t and just do it.” Under Reinecke’s mentorship he was also forced to explore various forms by composing a string quartet, an overture, and longer works. Initially, Grieg struggled with these and sought the influence of composers like Schumann, Mozart, Beethoven, and Mendelssohn. Instead of mirroring the style of other composers, Grieg eventually developed his own style. However, as Richter taught him, this could only be accomplished when Grieg had mastered the rules (Grieg. “My First Success” qtd in Grieg’s Articles, Diaries, and Speeches).

As we study the harmonic progressions of Grieg’s music, we find that each section has a distinct goal, a climax, and a return to tonality. The chordal structure can be understood by a skilled analyst, even if it is not readily discernable to a listener. This is part of the genius in Grieg’s compositions.

Before graduation from the Leipzig Conservatory, he performed his own compositions at the Gewandthaus. This great honor was the debut of his Four Piano Pieces, subsequently published as Opus 1.

A year later, he spent significant time in Copenhagen, Denmark, where he had a close association with painters, poets, and other musicians who were well-known throughout Europe. Copenhagen had become an artistic capitol in Europe, so Grieg was exposed to recent styles and ideas that were popular in surrounding countries.

It was during this time in Copenhagen that Grieg met Henrik Ibsen, a valuable friend and noted poet. Grieg favored setting the works of this poet because of their descriptive and imaginative qualities.

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