My latest obsession January 6th, 2017

As you may know from my previous posts, last summer I returned to Oslo, Norway for a visit, where I had lived for a few years as an adolescent. Music was a big part of my life there, and particularly the music of Edvard Grieg, Norway’s most famous composer.

Recently I’ve fallen madly in love with Grieg’s Holberg Suite, a group of pieces based on 18th century dance forms (Sarabande, Gavotte, Air, and Rigaudon, and the exciting Prelude), composed in 1884 to pay tribute to the Danish writer, Ludvig Holberg. Since I had only ever heard the string orchestra version, I was surprised to discover that Grieg originally wrote these pieces for piano. When I mentioned this to my friend, the pianist and vocal coach Michael Angell (who knows a great deal about Grieg), he immediately sent me the score from his cellphone! And I’ve been immersed in learning to play these wonderful pieces ever since.

But I have to say, as much as I love playing them, they are really marvellous when played on stringed instruments. There are bits (especially in the Gavotte) that are very reminiscent of Hardanger fiddle music. And of all the performances I’ve seen on YouTube, this one by Camerata Nordica is my favourite. I love the energy of the players, and their symbiotic communication with each other–made possible by the fact that they perform the entire suite from memory! I have heard that this group is now in disarray due to managerial problems, which is a great shame. See also, however, the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra’s performances (also to be found on YouTube), led by the same man, Terje Tønnesen. I defy you not to fall completely in love with this music!

 

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