Grieg Goes East

Erling Dahl Jr. has been in love with Edvard Grieg’s music ever since he was a child. His passion for the great international Norwegian composer has resulted in a book that is now being translated into Chinese and Japanese.

When I listen to the questions that are asked at the lectures around the world, I come to understand that Edvard Grieg was probably one of the greatest composers of his time.
– Erling Dahl Jr.

This spring Norwegian Hull Club has decided to give Dahl the contribution that will make publication of the book in Asia possible. The donation forms part of NHC’s anniversary gift in connection with which a donation has already been made to Troldsalen concert hall at Troldhaugen – Edvard Grieg’s home. 

“This shows a company that is a great patron of art. It is praiseworthy to see such generosity when it comes to culture and art, and it is particularly heart-warming for me when that company supports projects about Edvard Grieg,” says Dahl to Network.

The Making of the Book

Nevertheless, the book has had a long and complicated birth. The first chapter was written in 2001. Erling then travelled to Rome, Copenhagen and Tolfa – cities described in Grieg’s diaries from his youth – and literally walked in the composer’s footsteps. However, the writing process required more time, and in 2003 he was given the position of Festival Director at the Bergen International festival. The first edition of the book was published in 2007, just in time for the 100th anniversary of Grieg’s death, but Dahl felt it had more potential. Now, in 2012, the book Edvard Grieg – An introduction to his life and music is being released on the Asian market – in Japanese this spring and in Chinese later this year. In China more than 50 million people play the piano, and the market is almost unlimited when it comes to famous international composers.

“The famous Morning Mood from Peer Gynt could easily be mistaken for a Chinese folk tune because of its pentatonic tones, which are characteristic of oriental music. And did you know that in the musical curriculum in Japanese primary schools, the three composers covered are Mozart, Beethoven and Grieg? I don’t think Grieg would have believed it. But it is fascinating to see how his music penetrates right to the core of their culture, and that makes it recognisable and important,” enthuses Erling.

Grieg's International Appeal

This is the essence of the Grieg book project. Throughout his career – from his period as Director at the Grieg Museum at Troldhaugen to his positions as festival director, teacher and musician – Dahl has seen a growing interest in the composer outside Norway, and Grieg's work has grown on him as well. “When I listen to the questions that are asked at the lectures around the world, I come to understand that Edvard Grieg was probably one of the greatest composers of his time,” Dahl asserts. “His music is simple, elegant, inventive, and with a Nordic touch. It is a great inspiration to observe highly educated music students discussing Grieg and to hear their approach to his work. What I take for granted, they do not. That inspires me to study him even more,” he says. 

“Grieg’s music appeals to everybody,” continues Dahl, “but he cleverly adds something extra for the ones who really know his music. It is similar to what the painter Matisse did with his blue colour – he made it known that no one could possibly manage to remake it. The deeper you get into the music, the more interesting it gets. If I ever, at some point, come to feel that I know all about his music, I will know that I have mentally reached my final destination, " he laughs.

In what way has your close relationship with Grieg’s music influenced your book?

“After working with his legacy for so many years, I realised that I was in a unique position to write about my experience of Grieg
and how I personally understand his work. This is the reason why I have given the book a kind of oral character. It is my personal approach to his music, where I focus on the music that I have a personal relationship with; the chronology was not important. You know what they say: a biography is equally about both the author and the subject. I didn’t want to make it a lecture about the right way to read his music. I’ve only written my 33 subjective experiences, and my goal is that others will discover Grieg ‘in their personal way’,” says Dahl.

What is your favourite Grieg piece?

“His Piano Concerto in A minor and Peer Gynt are the two most famous compositions, no doubt. But I must say Grieg’s so-called “Alp symphony”, or Evening in the Mountains, is my favourite. It is a simple but concentrated piece. It is almost like he is drawing the silhouettes of the mountains.” 


2012 1 grieg2 

Erling Dahl Jr. shares his passion for Grieg in his newly released book. One of the stories is related to the letter from Henrik Ibsen where he introduces “Peer Gynt” and asks if Grieg wants to compose the music for his play (1874).



1. Dec. 2012