Posts Tagged ‘Edvard Grieg’

It’s interesting how an artist sometimes severely views a piece of their own work. Even more interesting when that same piece of work that fell under their critical eye becomes extremely popular. In the case of the great Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg, that piece became arguably his signature piece of music.

This came to my attention last night when there was a question on the current Jeopardy Greatest of All Time Tournament (big fan- been watching Jeopardy since the 1960’s when Art Fleming was the host on the daytime version) that made me laugh out loud.  It had to do with Grieg’s work that he was composing as music for Henrik Ibsen‘s epic verse drama based on a Norwegian fairy tale, Peer Gynt. His work for the play was meant to be just incidental music but turned into 26 pieces for the long five act drama, much more than he had anticipated when initially agreeing to work with Ibsen. It was obviously a very trying collaboration and Grieg was not impressed with some of his work.

He wrote the following to a colleague about one of the pieces, part of which was also the question ( or answer, as the format requires) on last night’s Jeopardy:

And I have done something for the hall of the troll king in Dovre which literally I can’t bear to hear, it reeks so of cow-turds, ultra Norwegianism, and to-one’s self-enoughness! But I am hoping that the irony will be able to make itself felt.

The answer (or question) was : What is In the Hall of the Mountain King.

That he thought that this piece which is now so associated with his name reeked of cow turds just made me laugh. Maybe it was just the idea that he used that term. Okay, maybe that’s a little sophomoric but, hey, he said it first!

You most likely know the piece in question here. It is surprisingly short and has been performed and used in many ways over the years. It always makes an impression. I am sure it was used in a Warner Brothers or Disney cartoon at some point and I liked a version from the early 70’s from the Electric Light Orchestra.

Here’s a performance of the In the Hall of the Mountain King section from the ballet Peer Gynt from the Zurich Ballet in 2008. Great visuals to go with the music.

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Grieg Is a Headbanger

I came across this video from a band called Apocalyptica.   I had never heard of them before but soon discovered that it was a Finnish group that was formed in 1993 and consisted of four cellists who were all classically trained at the Sibelius Academy.  They are fairly popular in Europe and around the world. 

 And they play heavy metal with their cellos.


I’m not a metal head so I wasn’t as intrigued as I had thought but I gave a listen.  Some was okay but could have been any metal group that had simply inserted cellos for guitars.  Interesting but not my cup of tea.

But a version they did of In the Hall of the Mountain King that Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg had written for Henrik Ibsen’s Peer Gynt caught my ear and made me think.  I wondered how someone like Grieg, who died in 1907,  would react to such a treatment of his music.  The more I listened the more that I thought he might have actually enjoyed it, might see that it captured some of the spirit of what he was offering in his original composition.  There is a cavelike quality to the arena setting.

Plus, from looking at a few pictures of Grieg I thought he might appreciate the fact that his music was being performed by a hair band.  In all the photos, Grieg’s hair seems to be a point of pride with him and I could almost imagine him throwing his head forward like the heayy metal guys do so that their hair flies forward then back in rhythm to the music. 

Or maybe not.

Grieg was not all that happy with this composition at the time, saying,  “I have also written something for the scene in the hall of the mountain King – something that I literally can’t bear listening to because it absolutely reeks of cow-pies, exaggerated Norwegian nationalism, and trollish self-satisfaction! But I have a hunch that the irony will be discernible.”  Maybe this treatment of his music would have pleased him from an ironic standpoint.

Anyway, here’s the Apocalyptica version.  It will either  have you banging your head or have your head banging. 

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