Edvard Grieg

Peer Gynt

Explained using the 5-4-3-2-1 Method

Duration: 100–110 Minutes (Complete Incidental Music)
Genre: Incidental Music
Time of Creation: 1874–1875
World Premiere: February 24, 1876 (Oslo)

Table of Contents

Edvard Grieg's Peer Gynt in 5 Sentences

Edvard Grieg wrote his incidental music Peer Gynt to the dramatic poem of the same name by Henrik Ibsen. Ibsen’s poem was very popular at the time, so Ibsen himself approached Grieg and offered to compose incidental music for it. Grieg gladly accepted the commission (which was also financially attractive), but for personal reasons neither Grieg nor Ibsen could be present at the premiere. For marketing reasons, Grieg wrote two orchestral suites in 1888 and 1893, each containing four movements from the original incidental music, but of course much shorter overall. Grieg’s plan worked, for to this day the two Peer Gynt suites are among Grieg’s best-known pieces and are performed much more often than the original incidental music.

Note: This work belongs to the Classical Music Top 100.

4 Highlights from Edvard Grieg's Peer Gynt

Highlight 1: Beginning with a wedding scene

The incidental music begins with a wedding scene, which Grieg impressively sets to music:

Highlight 2: In the Hall of the Mountain King

Edvard Grieg’s Peer Gynt contains some of Grieg’s most famous pieces, for example “In the Hall of the Mountain King”…

Highlight 3: Morning Mood

…as well as “Morning Mood:”

Highlight 4: Arabic dance

There is also an Arabic dance, which is an interesting parallel to Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite:

3 Questions and Answers about Edvard Grieg's Peer Gynt

Question 1: What are the 2 most famous pieces of the Peer Gynt Suite called?

The most famous pieces of the Peer Gynt Suite are “In the Hall of the Mountain King” and “Morning Mood”.

Question 2: Who premiered Edvard Grieg's Peer Gynt?

Neither Grieg nor Ibsen were personally present at the premiere of the Peer Gynt incidental music. Christiania Theatre’s conductor, Johan Hennum, conducted, and the artistic director, Ludvig Josephson, directed.

Question 3: How did the collaboration between Grieg and Ibsen go?

Although Ibsen is often described as relatively unmusical, he had very specific ideas about the incidental music for Peer Gynt. Grieg also implemented these ideas quite precisely.

2 Recommended Recordings of Edvard Grieg's Peer Gynt

Recording 1: Kristiansand Symfoniorkester, Bjarte Engeset

What would suit Grieg’s Peer Gynt better than an interpretation by a Norwegian orchestra? 😊 A wonderful performance with excerpts from the original incidental music and the two Peer Gynt suites comes from the Kristiansand Symfoniorkester conducted by Bjarte Engeset:

Recording 2: NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra, Herbert Blomstedt (live, 2016)

This is the Peer Gynt Suite No. 1 in a nicely tempo and dynamically balanced interpretation by Herbert Blomstedt and the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra:

1 Quote about Edvard Grieg's Peer Gynt

Dear Mr. Grieg! I am writing you these lines with regard to a plan I intend to carry out, and I would like to ask you if you would like to participate in it. It concerns the following: I intend to set 'Peer Gynt,' now soon to be in its third edition, for the stage. Do you want to compose the music for it? I will briefly outline how I think of the matter. [...] If you agree, I will immediately contact the management of the theater in Kristiania, deliver an arranged textbook and secure the performance of the play for us in advance. I intend to apply for an honorarium of 400 specie talers, to be divided equally between us.

Ibsen in a letter to Grieg

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