Edvard Grieg Biography

(One of the Main Composers of the Romantic Era)

Birthday: June 15, 1843 (Gemini)

Born In: Bergen, Norway

Known for his concertos and piano miniatures, Edvard Grieg contributed immensely to the world of music in Norway. His works became popular all over the world, and most of his music was inspired from his own emotions, real life scenarios and a lot of descriptive imagery. Norway was never known for its love for the arts or anything creative. One would always ponder over how a small country like Norway came up with and nurtured a musical genius such as Edvard Grieg. His love for folk music, landscapes and traditions seamlessly penetrated the creative boundaries of his music and he grew to become one of the most prominent names in the country. Grieg lived and dreamt music, and it was this dream that brought him to his evergreen masterpiece, the ‘Piano Concerto in A minor’. To know more on the life of Edvard Grieg, read on the biography below.

Quick Facts

Also Known As: Edvard Hagerup Grieg

Died At Age: 64


Spouse/Ex-: Nina Grieg (m. 1867–1907), Nina Grieg (m. 1867–1907)

father: Alexander Grieg

mother: Gesine Hagerup

siblings: Elisabeth, Ingeborg Benedicte, John Grieg, Maren

children: Alexandra Grieg

Born Country: Norway

Pianists Composers

Died on: September 4, 1907

place of death: Bergen, Norway

Cause of Death: Heart Failure

Notable Alumni: University Of Music And Theatre Leipzig, Tanks Upper Secondary School

City: Bergen, Norway

More Facts

education: University Of Music And Theatre Leipzig, Tanks Upper Secondary School

Childhood And Early Life
Edvard Hagerup Grieg was born in Bergen, Norway on June 15, 1843, to Alexander Grieg and Gesine Judith Hagerup. Grieg’s father was a merchant while the mother was a music teacher and the daughter of the renowned Edvard Hagerup. Edvard was musically inclined from a very tender age and his mother, noticing his inclination, decided to give him his first piano lessons at the age of 6. She taught him his basics for a couple of years before he went on to study the subject in depth at influential institutions such as ‘Tanks school’. His mother’s teachings and later schooling provided impetus and the right sort of environment for his musical talent. In 1858, when he was 15, Edvard met the famous Norwegian violinist; ‘Ole Bull’ who was distantly related to his family. Bull recognized the boy’s talent and urged his parents to send him to ‘Leipzig’s Conservatory’ where he would learn to love, nurture and inculcate music into his life permanently.
Musical Beginnings
Grieg was in for a 4-year tenure at the conservatory and resented the discipline and the culture of the school. Discipline issues apart, he excelled at various subjects and always made his teachers proud while he was there. He chose piano as his major and opted for organ as an elective. Edvard Grieg suffered a lung disease that threatened his life in 1860 but he overcame it with limited medical treatment and went on to give a successful debut performance in Karlshamm, Sweden, while still studying at Leipzig. Grieg studied under the guidance of some of the biggest names in Europe at the time and rose to prominence as a full-fledged, fully equipped musician after leaving the conservatory.
Personal Life
Edvard returned to his hometown to give his first performance as a noted musician from Leipzig, where he captivated audiences with Beethoven’s sonata; ‘Pathetique’. He decided to hold base in Copenhagen, Denmark and stayed there for over 3 years. It is here that he met his guide and future friend ‘Rikard Nordraak’ and eminent composers Niels Gade and J.P.E Hartmann. Niels Gade urged Edvard to create his own symphony which, after much persuasion, was created performed by Grieg on various occasions. However, he never wanted it to go public or be acknowledged by the public for reasons unknown. He undermined himself at various points in life and did not think his symphony was good enough to be appreciated on a global platform. This was when Rikard Nordraak (the man who created the Norwegian National anthem) stepped in and inspired Edvard to create and compose more. Following the death of his dear friend Nordraak in the year 1866, Edvard composed a funeral march in his remembrance that brought some light to a somber procession. This is when people began to recognize his works even more and began identifying him as a talented composer. Most of Edvard’s music involved the use of piano and violin for sonatas, and had tinges of German romanticism to it. But soon enough, Grieg realized his national loyalties and began to take inspiration from national folklores and Norwegian landscapes.


Marriage And Career
Edvard Grieg married his first cousin, Nina Hagerup, in 1867. During 1867-1869, Edvard created and composed his ‘Piano Concerto ‘A’ minor’, while on a holiday to Denmark. The concerto became such a rage that it was adopted by the famous Edmund Neupert who promised Edvard his concerto’s debut in Copenhagen on 3rd April 1869. Edward was however, unable to make it for his own piano concerto ‘A’ minor, as he was held up with other commitments in Oslo.

In 1868, Edvard met another gentleman by the name Franz Liszt who was deeply moved by his music. Liszt ensured that Edvard got a travel grant to meet him in Rome. Grieg visited Liszt twice and played the violin sonata for him. He even tried adopting Edvard’s Piano concerto however, Edvard felt that it was tampered with and played too quickly. In return, Liszt taught Edvard the ways and methods of orchestration. Edvard began to compose different types of music during his early years and came up with a lot of imagery-based music during 1874-1876. Some of his most famous works were for Ibsen’s play ‘Peer Gynt’, who specially requested him to compose music for the play. This not only won him accolades but also brought out his artistic capabilities to a forefront.

The music that he composed for the play was adopted by orchestras and piano-duet arrangements. He began to affiliate himself with different orchestras including the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra. As his popularity increased, he grew as a musical celebrity and then became music director of the orchestra from 1880-1882. In 1885, Edvard and Nina made Bergen their home and settled after an extensive period of touring. The house in which they settled called ‘Troldhaugen’ is now a central museum for all things related to Edvard Grieg, and carries on the magic of his music and legacy.

Grieg’s music and prominence both increased as he aged, and he was more of a celebrity in his later years than in his younger days. He started recording his music for gramophones and showed his flair for music as a pianist. These were made on both LP’s and CD’s and can still be found in historic musical records today. Grieg began to get pension from the government for his works and in the year 1906, he met musician Percy Grainger at a concert in London. Percy slowly began adopting Grieg’s music and played the Piano Concerto several times to high standards in various concerts throughout the world. 

Death And Legacy

Grieg died on September 4, 1907 after a long period of degenerating health. He was 64 when he died and had an elaborate funeral with over 40,000 devoted listeners pouring out on to the streets as a mark of respect for their lovable composer. This teary farewell was accompanied by the funeral march that he had composed for his friend, Rikard Nordraak’s death; this time, it was orchestrated by another friend, Johan Halverson. This was also followed by Edvard’s favorite Piano Sonata by Chopin. The legacy that Grieg left behind is an indelible one.

Grieg himself would not have imagined the magnitude and the impact of his music on others. He brought about a new culture that defined and fostered the cultural growth of Norway. His gripping works told countless stories of his hard work and struggles, in a period where he was not too recognized. It also brought to the forefront, his immense talent and his influence on budding musicians. His works are still performed and resonate in orchestra halls even today. He not only defined a new life for Norwegian music but also took his music on a global platform that transcended through generations.

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