Grieg Piano Concerto

SUNDAY, January 26, 2020

Famous for over 100 years…

Grieg died in 1907, and we know that by his death this concerto had already attained great popularity. That popularity has never faded. Unlike so many other famous works, it always got good reviews. Everyone like it, critics and the general public.

Again two recordings…

The first is modern, so the sound is very good and easy to listen to. The second is famous historically, but it was recorded much earlier and the sound is much less pleasant. However, the performance is first-rate.

Leif Ove Andsnes…

He is especially linked to this concerto and to the piano music of Grieg. It is interesting that one of the people he looks up to is Lipatti.

Dinu Lipatti…

He is not well known today by the average listener, but he remains famous among pianists. His life was cut tragically short at age 33. 86% of of the people diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Disease survive today, so if only he had been born much later he might have survived the illness. Many talented artists have died young.

History…

The Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 16, was composed by Edvard Grieg in 1868 and is the only concerto Grieg completed. He was 24 years old.

Three movements, the second in Db major, use the morphing idea of Am to Db and back to Am – I call this “Schubert morph” because he may have used it first, going from F to C#m in his famous Bb Major Sonata. Two notes move up and one moves down, all half steps. So the first and last movements start in A minor, while the middle movement starts in Db major, then the last goes back to A minor.

Liszt and Grieg…

At Grieg’s visit to Franz Liszt in Rome in 1870, Liszt played the notes by sight before an audience of musicians and gave very good comments on Grieg’s work which would later influence him. Grieg changed his concerto many times with over 300 differences to the original score. Liszt suggested changing the second theme of the first movement from cello to trumpet. Grieg followed this suggestion at first but later reversed the change.

Famous composers don’t stop amending…

The important thing here is that Grieg continued to change his mind about things to nearly the end of his life. There is a misconception that musicians write music and it is done, perfect, never to be changed again. That is very far from the truth. Grieg completed the final version of his concerto only a few weeks before he died, and this version is the one that has achieved worldwide popularity. So there was nearly 40 years between initial composition and the final form.

Link to Schumann…

Grieg’s concerto is often compared to the piano concerto of Robert Schumann: it is in the same key. But Liszt’s 2nd Concerto in A major is also in the same key, though major, so really there are three concertos that have similarities. Most people miss the connection to Liszt.

The timeline…

Schumann composed his concerto in 1841. Liszt composed his first concerto in 1849, the second in 1861. When Grieg wrote his in 1868 it is impossible that he did not know these other works. So the timeline is Schumann to Liszt to Grieg, in that order. However, Liszt used a very different form, more like that of a tone poem with linking sections.

First concerto recorded…

The Grieg Piano Concerto was the first piano concerto ever recorded, in 1909, but only about six minutes of it because of the limited technology of the time. Since then it has been used in movies from the year 1939 right through to the spy thriller, Red Sparrow, in 2018.

3+

4 thoughts on “Grieg Piano Concerto

  1. It is said Dinu died young… but he played the Concerto marvelously. The piece itself took enough time to compose that it would have been a lot of Dinu’s life.

    0
  2. I’m aware that composers make changes, but three hundred , WOW!!! I didn’t know that this piece took Grieg forty years to complete.

    As I’m now learning about morphing, I found the information about the “Schubert morph” to be very interesting.

    0
  3. I did not know that this was the first piano concerto to have ever been recorded. How special and magical that must have been at the time, even if it was only 6 minutes.

    0

Leave a Reply