Grieg, Edvard Hagerup

Grieg's first effort to arouse an interest in national music was by giving concerts with programs made up exclusively of Norwegian compositions, but it took several years and a certain amount of recognition from outside to win the prophet any honor in his own country. The honor did come, however, and more quickly than it has done in the life of many other gifted composers; for in 1874, eight years after his settlement in Christiania, the Norwegian government allotted him a pension ample enough to enable him to devote his entire time to composition. In 1870 he had visited Italy for the second time, at the invitation of Liszt, then in Rome, and enjoyed much of the great pianist's society, which not only stimulated him to still more earnest endeavor but increased his reputation. About this time, too, his acquaintance with Bjornsen and Ibsen was of great benefit, and his music to the latter's Peer Gynt elicited an expressed desire from the writer for music to an opera, the libretto of which he promised to furnish. Bjornsen began the libretto to Olaf Trygvason, which he himself had proposed to Grieg with enthusiasm; but after the first act was completed he, like Ibsen, failed to keep his word. This first act was produced three years later as a concert number, and the   fickle Bjornsen, excited with admiration of the music, seized the opportunity to end the estrangement which had resulted from his conduct. Grieg never therefore wrote an opera. From 1874 to 1880 he traveled much, playing his own piano concerto at a Gewandhaus concert in 1879, and visiting France, Holland and Denmark, as well as Germany. In 1888 he visited London, where he played  his piano concerto at a Philharmonic concert, and conducted his Zwein Melodien for string orchestra. He also appeared in a private recital with his wife, who was the first to interpret his songs to the world, and so charmed the listeners that the two were induced to appear again in joint public recital, and also in the Popular concerts. Grieg thus appeared in the " quadruple capacity of composer, conductor, soloist and accompanist." His reception by the English was scarcely less warm than that of his own countrymen; it would seem that they felt something akin to Jiheir own national spirit in the straightforward, hardy little Norseman. He visited England again in 1889, 1894, 1896, and finally in 1906. The honorary degree of Doctor of Music was conferred upon him by Cambridge in 1894, and by Oxford on his last visit in 1906. It was his intention to be present at the Leeds Festival in the autumn of 1907, but death frustrated his plans. In 1880 he had again settled near Bergen in the villa of Troldhangen. This lovely mountain home of his later years was a quiet and happy one. He had no children, his only daughter having died in infancy, but his wife was a perfect helpmate for him. The damp climate was, however, hard on Grieg's health; he had only one lung, and three years before his death friends became alarmed at his condition. As late as 1904 he played in chamber concerts at Stockholm, Sweden. He was always greeted with enthusiastic applause at such appearances, although 'prevented by his health from frequent playing in public. American managers besieged Grieg with lucrative offers, but the dread of an Atlantic voyage and of the effects of a New World tour upon his health led him to decline them all. In 1906, on his way to England, he conducted the Bohemian Orchestra at Prague, and the Concert Gebouw Orchestra at Amsterdam; and in London a program of his compositions was performed under his own baton by the Queen's Hall Orchestra.