Edvard Grieg… Hearing this name, we immediately visualize the nature of the north. This is something that happens to us automatically. It comes somehow together with epic paintings depicting Peer Gynt, Solveig, trolls, mountain caves, fjords with crystal water, purity and whiteness of snow…
How is this happening and why? Is this happening simply because we already know about Grieg’s connection with his native country? Oh yes… And also – with Henrik Ibsen and with Nordic nature… But what is “primary” in our understanding of the phenomenon of Edvard Grieg? Is it the information we possess on Grieg as a person? Or is it the music that he brought to our world?
It’s hard to judge the strength and expressiveness of the language of music as this topic is too big and worth in-depth research. Music has an amazing possibility of conveying specific information that a person can absorb without even realizing that. I had a privilege of listening to Grieg’s music from my early age without knowing anything about Ibsen or Norway. Nevertheless, I was getting with an effort on a chair so that standing on it I could reach my parents’ gramophone to play a record with music from Peer Gynt. I was fascinated by that music! Indeed, there is no way that the music of Grieg with its amazing purity would not fascinate a child. Children are always attracted by warm beauty and by good fairy tales. They are not yet intoxicated by useless, superfluous information that in the future may completely disorientate a person’s view of our world. Or worse – it may forever draw one away from good, pure, unblemished beauty and truth. While listening to this music without any knowledge about Norway I was visualizing a wonderful fairy tale. I could visualize Grieg’s country and feel her soul through the amazing miracle created by the great composer.
I would say that one can be called a really great composer only if he was able to express in his music the very soul of his people, and Edvard Grieg was quite successful in achieving that goal. Listening to Grieg’s music one can deeply feel and absorb the unique beauty and purity of Norwegian nature, culture and lifestyle even without having had any background knowledge about Norway, her literature, epos, etc. It would hardly be an exaggeration to say that Edvard Grieg’s music serves as a key to understanding the essence of Norwegian character.
Translated by Dr. Andrew Andersen
Photo by Max Rive