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Piano Concerto (Grieg)
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Piano Concerto (Grieg)

The Piano Concerto in A minor by Edvard Grieg was the only concerto Grieg completed. It is one of his most popular works and among the most popular of all piano concertos.

The work is among Grieg's earliest important works, being written in 1868 in Sollerod in Denmark, during one of Grieg's visits there to benefit from the warmer climate than that of his native Norway. It is written for solo piano, two flutes, two oboes, two clarinets, two bassoons, four horns, two trumpets, three trombones, timpani, violins, violas, cellos and double basses. It is in three movements:

  1. Allegro molto moderato
  2. Adagio
  3. Allegro moderato molto e marcato

Grieg's concerto is often compared to the Piano Concerto of Robert Schumann - it is in the same key, the opening descending flourish on the piano is similar, and the overall style is considered to be closer to Schumann than any other single composer. Grieg had heard Schumann's concerto played by Clara Schumann in Leipzig in 1858, and was greatly influenced by Schumann's style generally, having been taught the piano by Schumann's friend, E. F. Wenzel.

Additionally, Grieg's work provides evidence of his interest in Norwegian folk music - the opening flourish is based around the motif of a falling second (see interval) followed by a falling third, which is typical of the folk music of Grieg's native country. This specific motif occurs in other works by Grieg, including the String Quartet. In the last movement of the concerto, similarities to the springar (a Norwegian folk dance) and imitations of the Hardanger (the Norwegian folk fiddle) have been detected.

Grieg himself was a good pianist but the work was premiered by Edmund Neupert on April 3, 1869 in Copenhagen. Grieg was unable to attend the premiere owing to committments with an orchestra in Kristiania (now Oslo). Among those who did attend the premiere were the Danish composer Niels Gade and the Russian pianist Anton Rubinstein. The Norwegian premiere in Kristiania followed on August 7, 1869, and the piece was later heard in Germany in 1872 and England in 1874.

The work was first published in Leipzig in 1872. Shortly before his death, Grieg revised the work, undoing Franz Liszt's suggestion to give the second subject of the first movement to the trumpet rather than the cellos among other changes.

In 1882-83 Grieg worked on a second piano concerto in B minor, but it was never completed.

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