Lyricism Everywhere

Hello all,

This week’s music is the Sonata in C Minor for violin and piano by Edvard Grieg, performed by violinist Julia Fischer and pianist Milana Chernyavska.

Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg is probably most famous for his Peer Gynt Suite, but he didn’t see it that way. In his view, his three violin sonatas were his best works because they represented the three stages he went through in his development as a composer. “They represent periods in my development,” he wrote, “the first naïve, rich in ideas; the second national; and the third with a wider horizon.” Of the three sonatas, the third sonata remains the most widely performed.

As a Romantic-era composer, Grieg wrote music that practically bursts with lyricism and drama. The third sonata is no exception. The first movement, for instance, opens with a dark C-minor theme but eventually gives way to two motifs that seem to outdo each other in their tranquility, tenderness, and beauty. Another lyrical theme opens the second movement (although be sure to listen for the dance section Grieg inserts as a surprise). Again, the third movement features a sweet, songful melody that is juxtaposed with a muscular recapitulation of the first movement’s theme. The finale features many of the Norwegian folk tunes Grieg was known to adore.



A repeat!

Hello all!

Our music for this week is one of the all-time classics, and its one of the few repeats we’ve had over the past few years. There is so much amazing music out there that it is only worth sending a repeat if it is a truly foundational composition, and this piece qualifies as one such piece. It is the Holberg Suite by Edvard Grieg.


A few thoughts for your listening pleasure:

– Notice that it is written for a strings-only orchestra, giving it an almost Baroque feel at times. This is also reflected in the fact that this Suite is sometimes known by the title of “Suite in the Olden Style.”

– Grieg originally wrote the Holberg Suite for the piano, since he was dedicating it to a playwright friend of his who was a pianist. Later on, however, he is told to have thrown away the piano music in disgust and rearranged the entire work for a string orchestra

– This composition is one of the hallmarks of neoclassicism, which was a musical movement that blended stylistic elements of both the late Romantic/Eduardian era and the early Classical/late Baroque eras.

– It is interesting to note that, aside from his piano concerto and a few of his operas, Grieg is best known for works like the Holberg Suite, which feature an assortment of small dances. This is the exact opposite of most of his contemporaries, who were renowned for their massive four and five-movement symphonies.

– I like to think of this work in the same vein as Prokofiev’s Classical Symphony, which we heard last week. It puts aside the Romantic style and harkens back to the Classical era with an almost Mozartian lightness.

– Notice the names of the movements – Praeludium, Gavotte, Air, Rigaudon. All of these names are also the names of the French dance styles that Bach and Handel used in their compositions. This is yet another way that Grieg is paying homage to his predecessors in the Classical era.