On this day in classical music: Composer Edvard Grieg was born in Bergen, Norway in 1843. Known primarily as a miniaturist, Grieg composed 10 sets of “Lyric Pieces” for piano. He later was dubbed “the Chopin of the North.” In 1868, he composed his best known work, the “Piano Concerto in A Minor.” In the spring of 1870, Grieg showed his manuscript to Franz Liszt who played it at sight and offered suggestions about its orchestration. In 1876, Grieg composed incidental music for Henrik Ibsen’s play “Peer Gynt.” Grieg later created two orchestral suites of music from “Peer Gynt.” Listen to the Histoire Ensemble perform the “Praeludium” from Grieg’s “Holberg Suite.” Tara Simoncic conducts. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DBDVxyjW0eg
On this day in the musical theatre: Following a Broadway run of 1,443 performances (3½ years), “The Sound of Music” closed in 1963. It was to be the last Rodgers and Hammerstein musical. Hammerstein died nine months after “The Sound of Music” opened. The film version with Christopher Plummer and Julie Andrews opened in 1965 and became one of Hollywood’s most profitable endeavors. Listen to Julie Andrews sing the title song from “The Sound of Music.” Andre Previn conducts. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CtEFcqNAFlU
Musical musings: In his own time, Grieg was tremendously popular. He rode on the wave of nationalism that produced the equally popular Dvorak. But whereas Dvorak composed in big forms, Grieg was primarily a miniaturist (Grieg was in Debussy’s words, “bonbons wrapped in snow”); and whereas Dvorak is as popular as ever, Grieg’s reputation fell almost as rapidly as it had risen. Shortly after his death, few musicians would take Grieg seriously. His once piquant chromatic harmonies, which had so titillated music lovers, were accused of being cloying. Grieg, in short, was as out of fashion as the stovepipe hat and velveteen jackets of his period. – From The Lives of the Great Composers by Harold C. Schonberg.