Edvard Hagerup Grieg was born on June 15, 1843 in the seaport town of Bergen, Norway. His father, Alexander Grieg was English consul in Bergen and his mother Gesine Hagerup was a pianist and educator. Edvard Grieg was raised in a musical home and at the age of four began to study piano with his mother who fostered the love for Mozart’s music in her son. In the summer of 1858 Ole Bull, an eminent Norwegian violinist who was a friend of the family recognized the 15-year-old boy’s talent and persuaded his parents to send him to the Leipzig Conservatory.
While studying in Leipzig, Grieg enjoyed the many concerts and recitals given there. His first piano teacher Louis Plaidy was an adherent of the early classicism while Grieg was strongly attracted by romantic composers like Schumann, Chopin and Wagner. This caused him to ask for a different teacher. Grieg did not like the rigid discipline of the Conservatory but nevertheless graduated with honors. Teachers spoke highly of his talents as a composer and performer. In Leipzig he acquired pianistic skills, enriched his education and was exposed to European culture.
He returned home after finishing his studies. The scarce cultural life of Bergen prevented him from further development, so in 1863 he moved to Copenhagen, then the center of Scandinavian musical life. During the three years spent in the Danish capital Grieg got closely acquainted with Scandinavian culture, also he continued his studies in composition. Together with his friend R. Nordraak Grief he founded the concert society “Eutherpe” aimed at promoting the creative work of young Scandinavian composers. Meanwhile he embarked on several trips across Norway in search for folk music.
In 1866 Grieg moved to Christiania (as Oslo was then named). This new period in his life was marked by prolific musical activities: he wrote numerous works, organized concerts in support of Norwegian composers and participated in educational projects. In 1867 he established a musical academy in Christiania and in 1871, together with Johan Svendsen, the Musical Society, whose purpose was to support contemporary Scandinavian composers and the development of the national traditions in music. By that time Grieg had become a mature composer. He wrote his Piano Concerto in A minor, the first book of the “Lyric Pieces”, the Violin Sonata No. 2 in G major. In 1870 he met Franz Liszt in Italy. Liszt received Grieg and his music with great enthusiasm and this encounter gave the latter fresh inspiration and self-confidence, which helped Grieg to reconcile himself with the lack of support from the musical circles of Christiania.
In 1874 Grieg was awarded an annual grant that could support him without needing to teach or conduct. Eventually he left the capital to find a more tranquil place for composing. From 1880 onward he lived outside Bergen in his new home “Troldhaugen”. The calm environment gave an impetus to the composer’s creativity. He wrote the “Peer Gynt Suites No. 1 and No. 2, the “Holberg Suite” for piano, new books of the ”Lyric Pieces” and also song cycles and romances. In 1888 in Leipzig Grieg met his fellow composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky who became his lifelong friend.
During his last years Grieg focused on songs and compositions for piano. Grieg’s music is permeated with love for his homeland, its cultural features and nature. Till his last day the composer continued to perform and teach.
Edvard Grieg died in Bergen, his hometown on September 1907.