From Holberg's Time, op. 40

Suite in olden style
Edvard Grieg
Duration: 20'
Präludium. Allegro vivace
Sarabande. Andante
Gavotte. Allegretto - Musette
Air. Andante religioso
Rigaudon. Allegro con brio

In 1884, Grieg was one of several Scandinavian composers who were commissioned to write a commemorative piece for the celebration of the bicentennial of the birth of “the Molière of the North”, the Norwegian writer Ludvig Baron Holberg (1684-1754). Grieg called his set of short piano pieces 'From Holberg’s Time'. Holberg was a contemporary of Bach and Handel, so Grieg chose to cast his tribute in the form of a Baroque period keyboard suite.

The work was well received when the composer played it at the Bergen Holberg celebration in December 1884; so well, in fact, that a few months later he transcribed the music for string orchestra. Grieg cast the movements of his charming suite in the musical forms of the 18th century, but filled them with the spirit of his own time and style. A vivacious Praeludium, a miniature sonata-form movement, is followed by a series of dances: a touching Sarabande; a perky Gavotte, which is linked to a Musette built above a mock-bagpipe drone; a solemn Air, modeled on the Air on the G String from Bach’s Third Orchestral Suite; and a lively closing Rigaudon.

Eduard Hanslick, the powerful critic who disliked almost all the new music of his time except that of Brahms, aptly described the Grieg suite when he wrote that it was “a refined, well conceived work, less exotic than the compositions of the Norwegians often are. The antique style is cleverly reproduced, yet it is filled with modern spirit.” The suite remains one of the most frequently performed works for string orchestras.




The Holberg-Suite on YouTube: