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Observations placeholder

Grieg - Hun er saa hvid



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

Grieg - Hun er saa hvid

Instrumental version, Levon Arakelyan (cello)
Artur Avanesov (piano)
Live performance at Cafesjian Center for the Arts, Yerevan, 15 September 2010

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

Soon after their marriage, Grieg and Nina were anxious to start a large family. Their first daughter, Alexandra, was born in 1868. Sadly, she died of meningitis at the age of thirteen months. Grieg wrote this next song directly following her death as an expression of grief. You will notice that it uses characteristics of the Lydian mode; the fourth tone in the scale is always lowered. I believe this gives the song a sense of despair because it expands the minor mode. The song is called, “Hun er saa vid”, or “She is so White”. The word “White” refers to both the innocence and purity of his beloved child and her white pallor from death.

The poetry [the video is an instrumental version without the poem]  is by Hans Christian Andersen. The first stanza of the poem makes no reference to the fact that Grieg’s child has died. The composer was meticulous in choosing his poetry, and often complained that foreign translations were incongruous with his musical settings, and therefore, his music did not make sense with the words. Translations destroyed the artistic balance and text-painting of the original composition. Grieg writes:

If a Scandinavian poet, whose language the foreigner neither sings nor understands, is garbled in translations, not only he but also the composer suffers. Unfortunately I have often had bad luck in my attempts to get good translations…the result, even in favorable circumstances, is usually that the translations are made to fit the music and seem unnatural ” (Edvard Grieg Museum et. al.)

[which is why I have chosen an instrumental version]


The source of the experience


Concepts, symbols and science items



Science Items

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