Peer Gynt Suite, Rich, Textured, Is Grieg at Best

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Peer Gynt Suite, Rich, Textured, Is Grieg at Best

"Solveig's Song" is a piece from Edvard Grieg's "Peer Gynt Suite," written for Henrik Ibsen's 19th century play, and is known well enough here to merit a mention in a Korean music textbook. Grieg is probably the best-known of all Norwegian composers and has been called the "Chopin of Northern Europe."

The eponymous young protagonist of "Peer Gynt" leaves his widowed mother to seek his fortune. He is a charming but arrogant peasant, who is supremely confident of success. He goes on a series of voyages around the world, finding wealth and fame but not happiness. He returns to his home where Solveig, his faithful sweetheart, welcomes him with open arms. At last he is redeemed, but he dies on her lap. "Solveig's Song" speaks of Solveig's heart-rending wait for the lover who has abandoned her.

Other popular pieces from the "Peer Gynt Suite" are "In the Hall of the Mountain King," and "Morning." An arrangement of the former was included on Rick Wakeman's rock album, "Journey to the Center of the Earth," and it was also used on an animation film, "Inspector Gadget."

The latter, which perfectly captures the image of a fresh, pleasant morning, has been used on many a television advertisement. "Ase's Death," another piece from the suite, is popularly used in lieu of the traditional funeral march.

The "Peer Gynt Suite," originally written as accompanying music, is a good introduction for those who are just beginning to listen to orchestral pieces. The suite, with its neat, concise representation of the play's dramatic atmosphere and its colorful use of different instruments to express the themes, is simply marvelous. The suite consisted of a total of 26 pieces when it was premiered in 1876, and took an hour and a half to play.

Grieg later arranged the suite differently and made two orchestral suites, consisting of eight pieces, which take only about half an hour to play. Recently the "Peer Gynt Suite" has often been presented with additional solo, choral, or narrative parts or simply as a selection of songs, usually including "Solveig's Lullaby" and "Peer Gynt's Serenade" for Anitra, a girl he met during his voyage.

The "Peer Gynt Suite," was recorded by the San Francisco Symphony, conducted by Herbert Blomstedt. The recording, on the Decca label, faithfully represents the depth and the dramatic mood of the suites.

by Lee Jang-jik

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