Edvard Grieg (1843 -1907)
Piano Music V 01. 7
Norges Melodier, EG 108.
In 1874, the Danish music publisher,Edvard Wagner, asked Grieg to make a collection of folk-tunes and songs whichwould be published under the title: Melodies of Norway. Griegaccepted the task in spite of having second thoughts. The intention was,according to the subscription invitation, that: \The songs would be,easy-to-play Arrangements for the Piano, while at the same time presenting adegree of challenge to the performer and adhering to a certain Artisticstandard." immediately afterwards, Grieg kept his distance from thearrangements as he felt that they had nothing to do with art. It was simply aroutine job he took to earn money. To Wagner, he insisted that he would acceptthe job on the condition that his name would not be mentioned in connectionwith the published work. Only much later did it become known that Grieg wasresponsible for this selection and the arrangements. In 1877 Wilhem Hansen tookover the publishing rights for, Melodjes of Norway, because Wagner wentbankrupt. There were, of course, those who had guessed that Grieg had hadsomething to do with them, because in the revised edition, the publisher wrote:"The songs that would be easy-to-play Arrangements for the Piano, while at thesame time presenting a degree of challenge to the performer and adhering to acertain Artistic standard, have, by virtue of this Man's Name who assisted theEditors... (a Name not unknown among the Greatest Musicians in Norway)... been thebest guarantee for the qua1ity of the selection and the great care that hasbeen taken in the rearrangement of the pieces."
Towards the end of his life, Grieg lookedupon these adaptations in a more positive light, and when he was criticized byGerhard Schjelderup, who described them as uscandalously common, and completelylacking in sophisticationu, he defended them by saying, that one had toevaluate them in relation to the public for whom they were intended. Thepub1isher, Wagner, intended that, Melodjes of Norway, would be acollection for the "amateur piano player": the arrangements should not be toodifficult technically, but still be at a level that would appeal to, andsatisfy the taste of, the average music lover. In the above mentionedsubscription invitation to the first edition, it was also stated: "As the nameMelodie 5 of Norway suggests, this Workshou1d be a collection of all the beautifu1, the national, the home loving andappealing, that Norwegian Song Literature has to offer." That Griegsucceeded in doing this, is evident from the fact that new editions of thecollection were constantly being published. After Grieg's death, the collectionwas expanded considerably with new arrangements by the composer Eyvind Alnres,(1872 - 1932), who continued using the same guidelines that Grieg establishedwith his own arrangements. Even today, Melodie5 of Norway, is acollection that is widely used and highly appreciated in very many Norwegianhomes, and for thousands of Norwegians has been the first -and for many themost important -first experience with their national music.
The greater part of Melodie5 of Norwayconsists of songs, romances, and songs for male choir. In the 1870s thevast majority of these compositions already belonged to the establishedNorwegian Song Heritage. Even though some of them were relatively new, theywere able to hold their own, and soon were accepted as a regu1ar part of therepertoire. In addition, Grieg included a long list of folk-tunes, not justsongs, but also pure instrumental folk-music. Altogether, the folk-tunes areabout a third of the collection. Most of the folk-music is from L. M.
Lindeman's collection Older and Newer Norwegian Mountain Melodie5, which fromthe middle of the last century, and far into this, has been the most importantsource of folk-music inspiration for Norwegian composers. This collection:"Lindeman's Great Collection", as it is often called, consists ofpiano arrangements of memoranda which were collected primarily by Lindemanduring his yearly travels, through most of the valleys in Southern Norway,in order to search for new material. He took the first of such journeys asearly as 1848, and several generations of Norwegian composers have found theirfolk music raw material from that collection since then.
The original edition of Melodie 5 of Norway,which is recorded here, is completely and totally Grieg's work. Even thoughhe wou1d not have his name connected to the collection, he did put his name onsix of the folk-tune arrangements (Nos. 6, 22, 45, 59, 125,126). These were theones that he rightfully acknowledged as his own arrangements. L. M. Lindeman isnamed as the one who made the folk -tune arrangements for eight of the pieces,(Nos. 36, 81, 87, 96, 115, 123, 127, 146). Grieg made only small changes inthose, such as transposing down to a simpler key or mode (for example from AMajor to G Major: Nos.115, 123,146). In the above folk-tunes, where most ofthem are from Lindeman's collection: "Older and Newer etc. ...", thechanges from Lindeman's origina1 arrangement are greater, and Lindeman istherefore not given credit for these rearrangements. Lindeman was a marvelousorganist and a learned church musician, but his arrangements can often seemsomewhat overdone and some of the counterpoint can seem unnecessary .Grieg' schanges very often improve these superfluous things, and as the astute pianopedagogue that he was, he retained the essentia1 uniqueness of the folk-tune.
The compromise between what on the one hand should be playable for the averageamateur, and on the other hand should have a certain artistic content, cannothave been easy to accomplish. Even more the reason to admire the results Griegachieved in this collection. As for the remaining compositions in thecollection, the reworking is reduced to writing the melody for voice to highestvoice for the right hand, something which in most cases leads to changes in thepiano movement. Sometimes Grieg has a1so made improvements or simplificationswhich were not dependent upon the transcription from one medium to another. Thesongs are often transposed down, genera1ly from a whole note and then as a ruleto a key with fewer sharps and flats, and often one that made it easier toplay. Just as often he seems to do this to make it easier for the unschooledvoice to sing it as well. In some of the compositions he a1so makes relativelylarge changes, in, for example, preludes and epilogues, and sometimes he cannotresist the temptation to make certain harmonic improvements. Whereas at othertimes, there are little or no changes made from the origina1. The latter areprimarily where the origina1 song is the "ballad type" and where thesong's melody is a1ready in the piano's upper register.
Perhaps it is understandable that Grieg,at the end of the 18705, was afraid of being exposed as the one responsible forMelodies of Norway, among other things, considering that ten of his ownsongs were among those in the selection. He was probably concerned that theseseemingly unpretentious and popular arrangements would undermine his ownartistic reputation. Where his own reputation as a serious composer and artist wasconcerned, he was very sensitive and vulnerable. However, his selection ofworks of ot