One of the distinguishing characteristics of Romantic Era music is nationalism, which is incorporating into serious compositions the folk rhythms and melodies of one’s native country. Nationalism became very popular in the mid 1800’s as the enlightenment ideas spread throughout Europe and old dynasties were crumbling. Edvard Grieg, who was born in Norway in 1841, was trained at the Leipzig Conservatory in the German tradition of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Schumann. His early compositions were in the style of Schumann, Mendelssohn and the early Romantic school, but as he matured he was drawn back to the music of his native country, Norway and in 1864 he made a conscious decision to write music that reflected and incorporated Norwegian folk melodies and stories.
Grieg wrote for piano, voice, string quartet, violin, cello and one of his most popular compositions is the Concerto for piano in A minor, and another being In the Hall of the Mountain King from the Peer Gynt Suite. Though Grieg and his music were very popular in his day as noted by the fact his funeral drew crowds of 30,000 people, the interest in his music dropped after his death and it is only in recent years that people are again taking notice of Grieg and enjoying his contributions to music.
Grieg was a quiet and level-headed individual, not too swayed by the ups and downs of public popularity. Upon hearing that he was nominated for Knight of the Order of Orange-Nassau he accepted but noted the following to a friend, “Orders and medals are most useful to me in the top layer of my trunk. The customs officials are always so kind to me at the sight of them.”
Piano Concerto in A minor played by Valentina Lasitsa and the Seoul Philharmonic