Grieg, Edvard Hagerup

It is a melancholy fact, now generally recognized by writers on Grieg's work in composition, that the peculiar condition of his health was the most important reason for his not producing music in the larger forms. His best work was done between the ages of twenty and thirty; and this, as has been observed, was enough to make the world indebted to him. In his thirty-first year he received the government pension, but it was then too late for the results hoped for. From that time the quality of his work never reached the freshness and vigor of his earlier and more original compositions. While his music reflects the natural characteristics of his native land to such an extent that Finck has compared "a trip through Grieg's music" to a first tour through the scenery of Norway, the same writer calls our attention to the fact that his actual use of ready-made folk-tunes is limited. He states that out of seventy of Grieg's works there are only three in which the composer has incorporated Norwegian melodies, and that a study of the country's folk-song and of Grieg's predecessors in composition will convince one that he is a genius of genuine originality. Of Grieg's failure to compose in the larger forms and the consequent denial of his right to a place in the first rank by some critics, he says, after ridiculing the idea of " measuring genius with a yardstick," "A painter can give us his best quite as well in a canvas a foot wide as in one that covers a whole wall." Von Billow's well-known comparison of Grieg to Chopin has been much discussed by various writers. He is most nearly akin to the Polish tone-poet in these respects: that he embodied in tones most faithfully the national spirit, and that his music has made for itself, even during his lifetime, an especial place in the hearts of the world of music-lovers. This, with the predominance of the poetic and imaginative over the purely intellectual, constitutes the chief resemblance between two composers of very different temperaments and modes of living. As a song-writer, Finck, whose statements are rendered more authoritative by his personal correspondence with the composer, wavers between Grieg or Franz as being entitled to the place second to Schubert. As a writer for orchestra, also, his horizon is wider than that of Chopin. As to his originality, when his works first began to be performed, his modulations and harmonies were considered bold and striking in the extreme, but in the present state of modern composition, the qualities in his   music which impress the intelligent listener are more especially delicacy and refinement. Grieg himself was fully conscious of the combination of strongly contrasting elements which his music presents grace, melancholy, grotesque humor, a roughness which is almost brutal at times, and in some of his works, mystery. This last is noticeable in the melodrama Bergliot, and in the Peer Gynt suite, probably most widely known of all his works.