Peer Gynt (Grieg)

Peer Gynt, Op. 23 is the incidental music to Henrik Ibsen's 1867 play of the same name, written by the Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg in 1875. It premiered along with the play on 24 February 1876 in Christiania (now Oslo).

Later, in 1888 and 1891, Grieg extracted eight movements to make two four-movement suites: Suite No. 1, Op. 46, and Suite No. 2, Op. 55. Some of these movements have received coverage in popular culture; see Grieg's music in popular culture.

Edvard Grieg, in a photograph taken in 1888 by Elliott & Fry
Henrik Ibsen, in a photograph by Gustav Borgen

Original score, Op. 23

When Ibsen asked Grieg to write music for the play in 1874, the latter enthusiastically agreed. However, it was much more difficult for Grieg than he imagined. "Peer Gynt progresses slowly," he wrote to a friend in August 1874, “and there is no possibility of having it finished by autumn. It is a terribly unmanageable subject.”[1]

Letter from Henrik Ibsen to Grieg, January 23, 1874

"The more he saturated his mind with the powerful poem, the more clearly he saw that he was the right man for a work of such witchery and so permeated with the Norwegian spirit," his wife wrote of him and his music.[2] Even though the premiere was a "triumphant success", it prompted Grieg to complain bitterly that the Swedish management of the theater had given him specifications as to the duration of each number and its order: "I was thus compelled to do patchwork ... In no case had I opportunity to write as I wanted ... Hence the brevity of the pieces," he said.[1]

For many years, the suites were the only parts of the music that were available, as the original score was not published until 1908, one year after Grieg's death, by Johan Halvorsen.[3]

Various recordings have been made of this music. Some recordings that claim to contain the complete incidental music have 33 selections;[4] the recording conducted by Ole Kristian Ruud is split into 49 items.[5] Both recordings include several verses from the drama, read by actors.

The original score contains 26 movements:[3] Movements indicated in bold were extracted by Grieg into two suites.

The complete score of the incidental music includes several songs and choral pieces. The complete score was believed to be lost until the 1980s and has only been performed in its entirety since then.[6] (See the article on Ibsen's play for a list of notable productions, including concert performances of the incidental music.)

It was originally orchestrated for: one piccolo, two flutes, two oboes, two clarinets in A, two bassoons, four horns in E, two trumpets in E, three trombones, a tuba, timpani, cymbals, bass drum, triangle, harp, and strings.

Suite No. 1, Op. 46

Morning Mood

The Death of Åse

Anitra's Dance

In the Hall of the Mountain King
All files courtesy of Musopen. Performed by the Czech National Symphony Orchestra

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Morning Mood

The Death of Åse
Both of these pieces performed by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra in 1921

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  1. Morning Mood (Morgenstemning) (in E major)
  2. The Death of Åse (Åses død) (in B minor)
  3. Anitra's Dance (Anitras dans) (in A minor)
  4. In the Hall of the Mountain King (I Dovregubbens hall) (in B minor)

Suite No. 2, Op. 55

  1. The Abduction of the Bride. Ingrid's Lament (Bruderovet. Ingrids klage) (in G minor)
  2. Arabian Dance (Arabisk dans) (in C major)
  3. Peer Gynt's Homecoming (Stormy Evening on the Sea) (Peer Gynts hjemfart (Stormfull aften på havet)) (in F-sharp minor) – Compared to the one in the Peer Gynt Incidental Music (Op. 23), Grieg added an extra coda that ended this movement with an imperfect cadence in A minor.
  4. Solveig's Song (Solveigs sang) (in A minor)

(Originally, the second suite had a fifth number, The Dance of the Mountain King's Daughter, but Grieg withdrew it.)

See also


  1. 1 2 "The Story Behind Edvard Grieg's Peer Gynt". Classic FM. Retrieved February 21, 2015.
  2. Goulding, Phil G. (1992). Classical Music: The 50 Greatest Composers and Their 1,000 Greatest Works. Random House Publishing Group. ISBN 0307760464. Retrieved 21 February 2015.
  3. 1 2 Edvard Grieg – Thematisch-bibliographisches Werkverzeichnis, ed. by Dan Fog, Kirsti Grinde and Øyvind Norheim. Henry Litolffs Verlag Frankfurt/Main Leipzig London New York 2008
  4. "GRIEG, E.: Orchestral Music, Vol. 5 - Peer Gynt (complete incidental music)". Classics Online.
  5. "Grieg - Peer Gynt (The Complete Incidental Music)". BIS Records.
  6. Jeal, Erica (2001-08-11). "Prom 27: Peer Gynt". The Guardian. Guardian News and Media Limited. Archived from the original on 2012-01-02. Retrieved 2012-01-02.

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