Edvard Grieg

Lyric Pieces (8) for piano, Book 2, Op. 38

    Description by Uncle Dave Lewis

    Edvard Grieg published his Second Book of Lyric Pieces as Op. 38 in 1883. This group stands chronologically between Grieg's Cello Sonata and the Holberg Suite. At that time, Grieg was having a difficult time with his spouse, Nina, and infatuated with Elsie Schjelderup, a 26-year old "bohemian" painter living in Paris. Grieg left Nina in July 1883, though the intervention of friends brought the two back together over time.

    The finished set contains eight pieces, and these differ from other sets of Lyric Pieces in Grieg's offhand and somewhat synthetic approach to their construction. Grieg's superficial attitude might reflect the tension at home; other sets of Lyric Pieces are suffused in emotional expressions, but not this one.

    In the opening "Cradle Song" ("Vuggevise," or "Berceuse," not to be confused with the famous "Cradle Song" of Op. 68/6) a simple tune, decorated with gentle grace notes, is twice played. A more troubled middle section in the minor follows, rising to a climax which would surely "wake the baby." However, all is well as the first tune returns.

    "Folk Song" ("Folkvise," or "Folk Melody") consists of a 3/4 dance step with stresses on the first and second beats of alternating bars. The melody is voiced mostly in sixths and thirds.

    "Melodie" betrays the influence of Liszt's Libesträume, and is replete with C major arpeggios and harmonic rallentandi, typical identifying marks of nineteenth-century salon music.

    More momentous are the two dances, "Halling" and "Springdans" ("Spring or "Leaping Dance"), that follow. These are based on traditional Norwegian dance forms associated with the playing of the Hardanger fiddle, the "Halling Dance" being in 2/4 time and the "Spring Dance" in a pattern similar to that of the "Folk Song." Part of "Halling" bears a resemblance to the first movement "bridge" in Grieg's Piano Concerto.

    We find ourselves back in the salon again with "Elegy," which nonetheless has some interesting features, including a drooping, irregular chromatic figure that opens the tune and a diminished octave achieved by pitting an upward chromatic scale against a pedal tone.

    The "Waltz" ("Vals") is only a minute long and is in obvious debt to Chopin, though not as floridly pianistic as the Polish master. The concluding "Canon" is not strict, but the melody of the first section is answered in canonic imitation. The second part harkens back to the "troubled section" of the "Cradle Song." The "Trio" of this piece is in the major and is set to the "Spring Dance" rhythm. There is a bit of editorial trouble here in that some editions lack a da capo indication at the end of the middle section; in truth, the minor section is repeated and a B flat minor chord is played at the end.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Vuggevise (Berceuse)
    2. Folkevise (Folksong)
    3. Melody
    4. Halling (Norwegian Dance)
    5. Spring Dance (Skip dance)
    6. Elegy
    7. Waltz in E minor
    8. Canon

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    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 Lydian 18124
    1994 BIS 104
    1993 BMG 61568
    1990 Unicorn-Kanchana 2033
    Brilliant Classics 93516/8
    Donau 8124
    Vox 3023