Grieg, Edvard


Grieg, Edvard

Peer Gynt (Incidental music to Ibsen´s drama)

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Edvard Grieg

Incidental music to Henrik Ibsen’s verse drama Peer Gynt
for solo voices, chorus, and orchestra

(b. Bergen, 15 June 1843 – d. Bergen, 4 September 1907)


«Orpheus with his golden lyre
Soothed the beasts, set stones on fire.
Stones our homeland has no lack of,
Beasts it also has a pack of;
Play so stones with sparks redound!
Play so meadows peal with sound!»

Thus, with this bit of good-humored doggerel, began what was to become one of the great musico-literary partnerships of the nineteenth century. It was written by Henrik Ibsen in 1866 in the album of Edvard Grieg, then an unknown 22-year-old musician on his first visit to Rome. Although not particularly sensitive to music, Ibsen immediately sensed the young man’s genius, and his appreciation only increased when Grieg, in a bold letter written that same year, expressed a discerning sympathy for Ibsen’s first masterpiece, the verse epic Brand (1864), which was then suffering the lash of critical disapproval in his native Norway. Thus, when it came time eight years later to adapt his great but unwieldy verse drama Peer Gynt (1866) into a stageable version, Ibsen intuitively realized the practical value of a musical garb and immediately turned to his young compatriot Grieg for incidental music.

Grieg regarded Ibsen’s offer as both a flattering compliment and a supreme challenge to his artistic abilities. Ibsen, in his letter of invitation, was quite explicit in the sort of music he had in mind (letter of 23 January 1874):

«With the help of ballet, much more must be made of the wedding scene … For this a special dance melody must be composed, which can then continue to be played softly until the end of the act. … Some kind of musical accompaniment must also be created for the scene in the hall of the Mountain King … The chorus consisting of Anitra and the other girls is to be heard singing behind the curtain at the same time that the orchestra is playing. While this is occurring the curtain will go up and the audience will see, as in a distant dream picture, the tableau described where Solveig, now a middle-aged woman, sits singing in the sunshine outside her house. After her song the curtain will be slowly lowered. The orchestra will continue to play, but the music will move toward a description of the storm at sea with which the fifth act beings.»
Thus the embryonic origins of the wedding music, In the Hall of the Mountain King, Anitra’s Dance, and Solveig’s Song. Scene by scene Ibsen proceeded in the same vein, everywhere revealing the practical acumen of the seasoned man of the theater. Act 4 was to be scrapped almost wholesale; Act 5 considerably shortened; ample space created for music to exercise its effect. Grieg, thinking that the task would be prestigious, highly remunerative, and fairly simple, agreed at once. He scarcely realized that the music to Peer Gynt would occupy him for the rest of his life and emblazon his name above all else in the annals of music history…


Full preface / Komplettes Vorwort > HERE

Score Data


Repertoire Explorer


Choir/Voice & Orchestra




210 x 297 mm



Piano Reduction


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