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Ten Pieces - Edvard Grieg
Grieg's Piano Concerto is one of the top classics of the genre.

Ten Pieces - Edvard Grieg

Which is your favourite of the BBC Ten Pieces? We have a KS2 Music quiz on each of the ten composers, along with a quiz on the specific pieces too! This quiz will challenge you on how much you know about the Norwegian composer and pianist, Edvard Grieg, and his music.

The world and its music would have been very much the poorer without Edvard Grieg: if you are a pianist, you may already know and play some of his pretty and approachable easier pieces such as Piano Concerto in A minor.

But what do you know of this affable man, more widely? Test yourself by playing the quiz and see how many you get right.

Since Grieg lived into the 20th century, there are a few early, scratchy acoustic recordings of him playing his own and other people's piano music. But he also engaged with a parallel technology that enables us to hear his performances reproduced 'live' on an actual instrument in the same room, as your present writer vividly remembers having done. What form did this technology take?
Magnetic tape
Perforated paper rolls
The wire-recorder
Optical discs
The Piano Museum at Brentford in London holds copies of a number of rolls originally mastered by Grieg for two specialist companies in the earliest years of the 20th century, when 'wax recording' of acoustic signals (patented 40 years prior) was still better-than-nothing, yet far from perfect. Witnessing a roll performance is like having the original artist making music in front of you, without even their shoulders blocking one's view of the keyboard: a spookily direct and beautiful experience.
Grieg's ancestors were from Scotland (where the name would be, and still is, usually pronounced 'Gregg' to rhyme with 'leg'). But they travelled 'across the water' ~ somewhat as Handel himself had done, in his case from what is now Germany to Britain ~ so Grieg was, through-and-through, of which nationality?
His music has a direct universal appeal, but often a strongly Norwegian 'flavour' to it.
Grieg was (rightly) loved and admired internationally in his lifetime, unlike some composers: among many accolades he was awarded Honorary Doctorates of Music by Cambridge in 1894 and Oxford 12 years later. A typically characterful story related to the Cambridge visit where a full set of academic robes was required, and the only ones available belonged to a Dr Gray, who stood a little over 6ft tall. How tall was Grieg, who then had to process with dignity to, during and from a public ceremony while wearing them?
Just under 5ft
5ft and an inch or two
5' 6" or so (say, a full 10% shorter than Gray)
Equal in height to Gray, but Gray was a good deal fatter so the robes billowed around him
No doubt Grieg's ready humour enabled him to cope with this!
Grieg's Piano Concerto is one of the top classics of the genre: it would be unthinkable for it not to come near the top of anyone's 'top 10' along with one each by Beethoven, Mozart, Rachmaninov and probably 'the Schumann', plus (to the writer's mind) the unfairly neglected gem by Moszkowski (not to be confused with Mussorgsky). Schumann and Grieg each chose the same home key; and for this, and reasons of style and period, their two concertos used to appear back-to-back on vinyl recordings. Which is the key?
G major
A minor
E flat major
D minor
The dramatic opening chord of Grieg's concerto is utterly unmistakeable, and what follows is a very engaging listen. If by some mischance this work has thus far passed you by, now might be the moment (after you've finished the quiz ... ) !
At the age of 15 Grieg crossed the Baltic to begin his studies at the conservatoire in a major 'mainland European' city with a rich musical history stretching back through Mendelssohn (then very recent) to Bach: which city?
He would have been absolutely in his element there, though apparently there were parts of his studies that he did not enjoy or appreciate.
Apparently Grieg had a strangely similar musical start to another of our featured composers, Modest Mussorgsky, who had been born just 4 years ahead of him. How so?
Each of their mothers began giving him piano lessons when their boy was 6 years old
Both boys had fathers who regularly played the cello in good-amateur string quartets
Both boys had parents who were involved with the town band, and started having instrumental lessons from the bandmaster after sitting-in on a few rehearsals
Each boy had an elder brother in the local church choir, who encouraged them to join, initially 'just for fun and pocket-money'
A strange but true coincidence.
Oslo (Norway's capital, as we now know it) was in those days called Christiania, but this is not where Grieg grew up or studied; the proud Grieg 'cult' of memorials is, rather and rightly, centred around his hometown elsewhere in Norway ... where?
Well worth a visit if your travels should ever take you in that direction: Grieg's home at Troldhaugen ('Troll Hill', as in his famous piece Wedding Day), and the little creekside hut where he did much of his composition, can be visited ... and there is a fine new concert hall on the hillside between them ~ probably built around Grieg's sesquicentenary in 1993.
Though always happy at home in Norway, Grieg travelled a great deal (both for, and despite, his poor bronchial health) and met many other musicians whose names you will probably know, with whom he got on personally and musically very well and who were very encouraging and complimentary about what he had written. Which of the following was NEVER such a friend or influence?
Franz Liszt
Peter Tchaikovsky
Percy Grainger
Francois Chopin
Sadly, Chopin died in the same year as Grieg would have been having his first piano lessons with his mother. So although (if you are a pianist) you may well have played and progressed and grown to love their music out of similar albums (Romantic Piano Gems for the Earlier Grades and the like), for all practical purposes their lives did not really overlap at all.
To what age did Grieg live?
Certain other Classical and Romantic composers barely lived half as long (Mozart, Schubert, Mendelssohn, Chopin) but Grieg died in his mid-60s after a long illness, and apparently about 35,000 of the people of Bergen came out to honour his funeral. As a sensitive and essentially optimistic internationalist, he would probably have been horrified had he lived into his dotage and World War 1 broken out in what would have been his early 70s.
In which decade was Grieg born?
He was born in June 1843 and lived through into 1907.
Author:  Ian Miles

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