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Music with Ease > Classical Music > Concert Guide: Nationalist Era > Suite, "Peer Gynt", No. 1. Op. 46 - Grieg


Suite, "Peer Gynt", No. 1. Op. 46

Edvard Grieg
(1843-1907)



The incidental music composed by Grieg for Ibsen’s well known drama, "Peer Gynt," written in 1867, was first published as a piano duet, but was afterwards made into two suites, the selections having been chosen by the composer himself. The story of Peer Gynt, his capricious, fantastic humor and bombastic arrogance, his abduction of the rustic bride Solweig and desertion of her, his love adventures in the halls of the mountain king and his ejection from them, his return home and the lonely death of his mother, Aase, his further adventures in the desert with the Bedouin girl Amitra, and the sad plight of the pseudo-prophet, his return, old and poor, to Solweig, in whose arms he dies -- all the events of the familiar drama, indeed, are well known.





The first suite comprises four movements: 1. Morning Mood. 2. Death of Aase. 3. Amitra’s Dance. 4. In the Hall of the Mountain King. The first and fourth movements are written for full orchestra, but the second and third are scored without wind instruments. The first movement evidently typifies the awakening of day among the mountains and the revery of Peer Gynt, who in his sublime silliness fancies he is monarch of all he surveys. It is of a bright and cheery character, consisting of the free elaboration of a single pastoral theme, with which is interwoven a cantabile theme in the cellos. The second movement is an elegy, or, practically, a funeral march, describing the solitary death of Aase on the mountain side. It is made up of gloomy yet haunting harmonization, and the reiteration of its phrases is a fitting expression of the monotony of grief. The third movement gives the agility, grace, and suppleness of Amitra in the dance. It is in mazurka time. The cello has an independent melody running through the movement, and the use of the triangle with the string instruments gives it an Oriental effect of color. The last movement represents the episode of Peer Gynt’s visit to the cavern of the gnomes and their grotesque incantations and dances. It is constructed upon a single motive, begun in the bassoons and gradually extended in full orchestra. The entire movement, with the exception of the first few bars, is a repetition of a four-measure phrase from pianissimo to fortissimo, continually increasing in intensity.





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