G, G, NOT G sharp!

Edvard Grieg
June 15, 1843 – September 4, 1907

ONE OF MY FAVORITE PIANO CONCERTOS is by the Norwegian composer, Edvard Grieg. His individuality of style is by no means entirely due to his interest in Norwegian folk music, although some of his commonest mannerisms, such as a tendency to make his melodies gravitate about the ‘3rd degree’ of the scale, are obviously derived from that source.

My first public performance of Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 16 was in Calcutta, India, on December 11, 1969 with the Calcutta Symphony Orchestra  under the baton of its long-time conductor, Gerald Neil Craig.

The local music critic of the English edition of the Bengali newspaper, Amrita Bazar Patrika, wrote of my performance:
“A carefully thought out and always musicianly approach drawing out the more poetic aspects of the score.”

I am aware of the fact that Grieg’s birth anniversary falls this month on the 15th, and indeed I began this blog a few days ago to celebrate the event on the due date, but sad to say I was unable to get all my ducks in a row until now – a day late!

To continue my narrative, in the spring of 1870, Grieg paid a visit to Franz Liszt in Rome, and wrote:
“In the very last bars where the first note of the theme, G-sharp is changed to G in the orchestra, he (Liszt) suddenly stopped short, rose to his full height, left the piano and. with a giant strides and one arm raised above his head, marched the whole length of the huge monastery hall, virtually roaring forth the theme. On reaching the above-mentioned G, he extended his arm in the imperious manner of a Caesar, and shouted: G, G, not G-sharp! Terrific! That is as genuine as Swedish punch!”

The music critic Cherbuliez wrote then:  The concerto is outstanding above all because of its melodious and rhythmic independence achieved by the use of Norwegian folk music especially in the last movement. It shows an imaginative quality arising from the abundance of secondary themes.”

Copyright © 2020 Azim Lewis Mayadas

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