Edvard Grieg

Piano Concerto

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

Duration: About 30 Minutes
Genre: Solo Concerto
Time of Creation: 1868
World Premiere: April 03, 1869 (Copenhagen)

Table of Contents

Grieg's Piano Concerto in 5 Sentences

The genesis of Edvard Grieg’s Piano Concerto begins unusually: Grieg, who studied in Leipzig, heard Robert Schumann’s Piano Concerto played by his wife Clara at the music conservatory there. Grieg was a great admirer of Schumann and felt immediately inspired by his piano concerto. Accordingly, there are many parallels between the two works (Grieg drew further inspiration from the piano concerto of his friend August Henrik Winding, as well as from the “Halling”, a Norwegian jumping dance). Grieg’s Piano Concerto was immediately well received by the public, though not by fellow composer Hugo Wolf, who detested the work (see the quote below).

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

4 Highlights from Grieg's Piano Concerto

Highlight 1: Dramatic beginning

Now that’s what I call a dramatic presentation! Grieg has his Piano Concerto begin with a timpani roll that grows louder and louder, after which the piano enters with a swooping gesture. Then the woodwinds present the main theme of the first movement:

Highlight 2: Dialogue between piano and orchestra

In the second movement, the dialogue between piano and orchestra takes center stage. The strings present a dreamy melody that is taken up more forcefully by the piano toward the end of the movement:

Highlight 3: Jumping Dance!

At the beginning of the third movement, the echoes of the Norwegian jumping dance are clearly heard…

Highlight 4: Solemn finale

…which finally culminates in a solemn finale in which the piano and orchestra virtually goad each other:

3 Questions and Answers about Grieg's Piano Concerto

Question 1: How many piano concertos did Edvard Grieg compose?

Edvard Grieg completed only one piano concerto.

Question 2: What models did Grieg have for his piano concerto?

Grieg was an admirer of Schumann. So it is not surprising that there are some parallels between Grieg’s Piano Concerto and Schumann’s Piano Concerto. However, another model was even more formative: the Danish pianist, piano teacher and composer August Henrik Winding was a close friend of Grieg and had also composed a piano concerto in 1867/1868, from which Grieg drew inspiration. In addition, there were (mainly rhythmic) ideas from the Norwegian jumping dance “Halling”.

Question 3: Who played the first performance of Grieg's piano concerto?

The pianist for the premiere was Edmund Neupert, a Norwegian pianist who is quite unknown today, but during his lifetime was mentioned in the same breath as virtuosos such as Liszt and Rubinstein. Neupert was also a sought-after piano teacher: he taught at the music conservatories in Copenhagen, Moscow and New York.

2 Recommended Recordings of Grieg's Piano Concerto

Recording 1: Matthias Kirschnereit, Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra Wernigerode, Christian Fitzner (video production, 2021)

Matthias Kirschnereit is for me one of the hidden champions of the piano. This variability in touch, this power that is never aggressive – great. That’s exactly what you need in Grieg’s Piano Concerto:

Recording 2: Joseph Moog, Deutsche Radio Philharmonie, Günther Herbig (live, 2017)

Joseph Moog takes agogic liberties in some places in this live performance with the Deutsche Radio Philharmonie (conductor: Günther Herbig) (right at the beginning, for example), which provides a refreshing perspective on Grieg’s Piano Concerto:

1 Quote about Grieg's Piano Concerto

It is no good in the concert hall.

Hugo Wolf's verdict on Edvard Grieg's Piano Concerto

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