Edvard Grieg

Lyric Pieces (7) for piano, Book 4, Op. 47

    Description by Uncle Dave Lewis

    The seven works that constitute Edvard Grieg's Fourth Book of Lyric Pieces, published as Op. 47 in 1888, were composed from 1885-88. By mid-1885, Grieg had reconciled with his wife Nina, and together they built a home outside Bergen at Troldhaugen ("Valley of the Trolls"). This would serve as home to the Griegs for the rest of their days. Once completed, the considerable expense of building this elaborate house would drive Grieg back to his worktable. In these years he shaped the First Peer Gynt Suite from his incidental music of 1874-5, revised his cantata Oleg Trygvason, and completed his Third Violin Sonata for the violinist Adolf Brodsky.

    It was at Brodsky's in Leipzig on New Year's Day, 1888 that Grieg enjoyed lunch in the company of fellow composers Johannes Brahms and Peter Tchaikovsky. Also in Leipzig, Grieg met the young English composer Frederick Delius; the two became fast friends, and Delius rejoined Grieg at Troldhaugen for the summer of that year. In May, Grieg traveled to London where he performed his A minor Piano Concerto for the last time. Joyous news arrived in the form of a letter from Grieg's publisher Max Abraham with C.F. Peters; Abraham agreed to assume the remaining debt on Troldhaugen and pay it off, relieving Grieg of the responsibility of having to raise the funds to do so.

    It was in this stimulating atmosphere of settling-in, reinvigorating his romance with Nina, cleaning up old business, and acquainting himself with his peers that Grieg composed the Fourth Book of Lyric Pieces.

    He saved many of his freshest ideas for this set; immediately established through the bitter melodic tinge of the opening "Valse-Impromptu," almost bi-tonal in its constant tension between the E major melody in the right hand against the E minor tonality in which the piece is rooted. "Albumblad" (Album-leaf) has an ecstatic quality that is reminiscent of somewhat later works of Scriabin. "Melodie" is stated over a grave, minimal, and insistent quarter- and eighth-note figure (in 6/8 time) which is sometimes voiced only in bare fifths for long stretches of bars. In "Halling," a setting of a traditional duple-time Norwegian dance, the bare fifths in the accompaniment return decorated by dissonant passing tones. The melody is likewise peppered with dissonant grace notes and adjacent pitches; at one point Grieg achieves a minor ninth in the melody. "Melancoli," marked Largo, is somber, as indicated by the title, and largely serves to provide thematic contrast between the "Halling" and "Springdans" (Spring or Leaping Dance) which follows. The "Springdans," a triple time Norwegian dance, is similar in approach to the "Halling"; Grieg adds huge leaps in the left hand to the treble register and some tricky triplet figures in the right. The concluding "Elegie" centers around a drooping chromatic melody that is harmonized by thirds in the manner of Massenet's Elegie. Perhaps an ending more respectable than ideal in this context, this piece is nevertheless haunting in its own distinctive way.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Waltz-Impromptu
    2. Alumleaf
    3. Melody
    4. Halling (Norwegian dance)
    5. Melancholy
    6. Spring dance
    7. Elegy

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2018 Warner Classics 573596
    2015 ABC Classics 4811702
    2014 Melodiya MELCD 1002118
    2010 Cascavelle 3141
    2010 Brilliant Classics 94046
    2008 Brilliant Classics 93266
    2008 Skarbo 1079
    2008 Centaur Records 2930
    2007 Brilliant Classics 93516
    2007 Blue Griffin Recording 145
    2006 Cascavelle 3083
    2006 BIS 1626
    2004 RCA Red Seal 60391
    2003 Brilliant 99748
    1998 Columbia River Entertainment Group 1169
    1996 Naxos 53394
    1995 EMI Music Distribution 568634-2
    1995 Lydian 18124
    1994 BIS 104
    1993 BMG 61568
    1990 Unicorn-Kanchana 2033
    Victoria 19029
    Brilliant Classics 93516/8
    Donau 8124