Presented at the Grieg Seminar in Bergen August 24, 2013
Daniel Grimley, Great Britain
Professor, Oxford University
Grieg’s Affective Landscapes: (Re)Hearing the Stemninger, op. 73
In a letter dated 28 August 1905, Grieg wrote to his agent Henri Hinrichsen at Edition Peters in Leipzig, enclosing a series of seven short piano pieces—the Stemninger (‘Moods’), for publication as his Op. 73. A day later, he confided to his friend, the Danish organist Gottfred Matthison-Hansen, that the pieces were intended as ‘bait’ [Lokkemad], ‘cast into the jaws of Mammon’ in order to try and persuade Peters to produce two of his orchestral scores, the Variations on an Old Norwegian Folk Tune, Op. 51, and the instrumental versions of his Lyric Pieces, Op. 54. The whole enterprise, Grieg suggested wistfully, reminded him of Emil Horneman’s waspish aside after the premiere of Johan Selmer’s 1872 cantata Nordens Ånd (‘The Spirit of North’): ‘the mountains tremble: a mouse is born!’ According to Grieg, his own mouse was so tiny that spectacles were required in order to be able to see it properly. The pieces nevertheless carried a more baleful meaning: ‘for with this mouse, I have for the first time felt that I have aged’ Grieg explained. ‘There are just a couple of old Norwegian pieces that I am pleased with, but otherwise my heart was not in them’.