Edvard Hagerup Grieg (15.06.1843 – 04.09.1907) was a Norwegian composer and pianist. He is the most celebrated person from the city of Bergen, with numerous statues depicting his image, and many cultural entities named after him. Grieg’s best known works include his Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 16, Holberg Suite, Op. 40, his Lyric Pieces, including Wedding Day at Troldhaugen and March of the Trolls, and the incidental music to Peer Gynt. Grieg is one of the leading composers of the Romantic era, and pieces such as those above continue to enthral audiences worldwide.
Grieg composed the incidental music for the Norwegian dramatist Henrik Ibsen’s play Peer Gynt: a five-act play in verse published in 1867. The play chronicles the journey of Peer Gynt from the Norwegian mountains to the North African desert. Peer Gynt was first performed in, what is now, Oslo on 24 February 1876, with Grieg’s original music and included some of today’s most recognized classical pieces, In the Hall of the Mountain King and Morning Mood.
The score that Grieg composed to accompany the play is quite extensive. However, the composer extracted two suites of four pieces each from the incidental music (Opus 46 and Opus 55), which have subsequently became very popular as concert music. There are a number of fine recordings of the suites available including one by Herbert von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra that we can particularly recommend. However we have decided to include a disc of highlights of the incidental music (that includes the eight pieces in the suites) recorded in 1957 by Sir Thomas Beecham and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra with the Beecham Choral Society and the soprano Ilse Hollweg.
For those readers who are seeking a performance of the entire incidental music we would recommend Neeme Järvi’s account, from the 1980s, with the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra.