The Music Plays On

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Edvard Grieg

It was Grieg’s birthday on June 15 and it bothers me that I waited until today to share my favorite performances and recordings of one the most dramatic and tuneful piano concertos ever written! Composed in 1868, it remains a favorite for audiences and pianists and always touches my heart when I hear that beautiful and timeless melody played by the flute in the last movement.

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Grieg, 1866

Greatly influenced by Schumann’s Piano Concerto, Grieg’s concerto is infused with folk music from his native Norway. From the opening grand statement heard in the piano, to the raucous dance rhythms in the last movement, the sound of the countryside is ever present. There are three movements in total, but the second movement leads into the final movement with no break.

The premiere took place in Copenhagen April 3, 1869 and, oddly, Grieg could not attend due to commitments to another orchestra concert in Norway. A year later, he took it to Rome and the venerable Franz Liszt sight-read the concerto, complimenting Grieg for his accomplishment. He revised it many times throughout his life, tinkering with it here and there and, in fact, Grieg added his final revisions just weeks before his death in 1907, almost forty years after the concerto’s premiere!

Here are my favorite performances and recordings.

This is an extraordinary performance considering that the pianist is Julia Fischer, one of the world’s great violinists!