Even people with no interest whatsoever in classical music will know at least a few pieces by Edvard Grieg. Among many highlights, his collaboration with Henrik Ibsen on Peer Gynt produced the uplifting Morning Mood and In the Hall of the Mountain King, some of the world’s most famous classical works.
Although most Norwegians celebrate Norway’s most famous composer as one of their own, in Bergen they take things a step further. Founded in 1765, the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra once had Edvard Grieg as Artistic Director.
Grieg’s charming residence at Troldhaugen has become a popular tourist attraction and concert venue, hosting piano recitals and competitions in his name.
A trip to Bergen is a must for any fan of Grieg and classical music in general. In addition to Grieg’s residence, the city is also home to several other historical homes of celebrated composers.
The life of Grieg
Born in Bergen in 1843, Grieg struggled in school but excelled at music, although he preferred to follow his own interests rather than a set curriculum. He studied the work of Mozart and Beethoven in Leipzig, before spending some years in Copenhagen where he established himself in the arts.
After reconnecting with and marrying his first cousin Nina Hagerup, Grieg returned to Norway. Living at Troldhaugen, Grieg began his key collaborations with author Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson and playwright Henrik Ibsen.
His incidental music for Ibsen’s Peer Gynt would go on to become his most noted work, still widely performed and recognized almost 150 years later.
Sadly, it was Grieg’s success that contributed to his death from chronic exhaustion in 1907, at the age of 64.
Troldhaugen, the home of Edvard Grieg
At Grieg’s Troldhaugen country estate just a few miles outside of Bergen, the Edvard Grieg Museum is a popular stop for classical music lovers the world over.
Following his return to Bergen, Grieg lived in the pastel-yellow villa together with his wife during the summers until his death in 1907. The ground floor has been left almost untouched as a tribute to the master composer, including his original Steinway piano.
Grieg actually wrote much of his famous work free from distraction in the small lakeside cabin.
During the summer, ticketed recitals take place on weekends while daily piano concerts are held in the early afternoons. A combined transport and concert ticket is available from the museum website or the tourist information office.
Other composer houses in Bergen
Troldhaugen isn’t the only historic house in Bergen of interest to classical music fans. Lysøen Museum consists of Ole Bull’s villa, a summer island getaway that the composer referred to as his “Little Alhambra.”
Siljustøl, the home of composer Harald Sæverud, was also preserved as a museum following his death in 1992. The hiking trails outside the house were an important inspiration to Sæverud.
Grieg’s lasting legacy in Bergen
The memory of Grieg in Norway’s second biggest city goes well beyond his Troldhaugen home. Several buildings are named after the composer, most notably Grieg Hall, a 1,500-seat concert hall situated, of course, on Edvard Griegs plass.
Several statues have been erected across the city. The most famous is in the center of Byparken, the city park, facing the music pavilion.
Run by relatives of Grieg, the Opus XVI hotel is the only place to stay in Bergen for Grieg fans. Decorated with family heirlooms and a timeline of Grieg’s life, the hotel offers luxury accommodation and excellent dining in a former bank at the hear of Bergen.
Grieg’s legacy goes far beyond tourism and concert venues, though. The University of Bergen’s Grieg Academy offers a one-year program for international students in performance or composition, in close collaboration with the Centre for Grieg Research.
Established in 2010 by the University of Bergen and other educational institutes across Western Norway, the Grieg Research School in Interdisciplinary Music Studies convenes courses twice a year to stimulate and develop research into music regionally, nationally and internationally.