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Tonight's Great Composer is Norway's greatest classical export, Edvard Grieg.
Edvard Grieg (1843 – 1907) is to Norway what George Washington is to America and William Shakespeare to England: his country's most celebrated human icon. Tonight, Jane Jones introduces his most famous work - the Piano Concerto in A minor, alongside some less well-known masterpieces.
At the age of 25, the young Grieg was determined to make his mark on the world with his first work to employ an orchestra - the Piano Concerto in A minor. From the thunderous roll of the timpani in the opening bars, Grieg sounds totally assured and in command of his orchestral writing throughout this concerto – and yet, he was far from experienced in composing for such large forces. The work was an instant success and many expected Grieg to replicate it soon after with a second concerto for the instrument. Intriguingly, though, he never chose to write another. It's played tonight by Krystian Zimerman with Herbert von Karajan conducting the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra.
Although Grieg produced a large number of piano and chamber works, there are few purely orchestral pieces. The Symphonic Dances - nearly his last orchestral work and probably his orchestral masterpiece - are drawn mostly from Norwegian folk dances and peasant songs, but they are cast in a highly Romantic, German symphonic style.
Grieg composed the Cello Sonata in A minor, his longest chamber work, in 1882, marking a return to composition following a period when he had been preoccupied with his conducting duties at the Bergen Symphony Orchestra as well as illness. He dedicated the piece to his brother, John, a keen amateur cellist. It's played tonight by Truls Mork with Jean-Yves Thibaudet on the piano.
The Slåtter are Norwegian folk dances and tunes, originally played on the violin which Grieg ingeniously transcribed for the piano. Tonight we hear orchestral arrangements of some of them. in a world première recording from the Royal Scottish National Orchestra conducted by Bjarte Engeset.
Grieg:Piano Concerto in A minor
Piano: Krystian Zimerman
Herbert von Karajan conducts the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Grieg: Symphonic Dances
Paavo Jarvi conducts the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra
Grieg: Cello Sonata in A minor
Cello: Truls Mork
Piano: Jean-Yves Thibaudet
Grieg: Slåtter - Suite for Orchestra
Bjarte Engeset conducts the Royal Scottish National Orchestra