Piano Concerto (Grieg)
The Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 16, composed by Edvard Grieg
Edvard Grieg
Edvard Hagerup Grieg was a Norwegian composer and pianist. He is best known for his Piano Concerto in A minor, for his incidental music to Henrik Ibsen's play Peer Gynt , and for his collection of piano miniatures Lyric Pieces.-Biography:Edvard Hagerup Grieg was born in...

 (1843–1907) in 1868, was the only concerto
A concerto is a musical work usually composed in three parts or movements, in which one solo instrument is accompanied by an orchestra.The etymology is uncertain, but the word seems to have originated from the conjunction of the two Latin words...

 Grieg completed. It is one of his most popular works and among the most popular of all piano concerti
Piano concerto
A piano concerto is a concerto written for piano and orchestra.See also harpsichord concerto; some of these works are occasionally played on piano...



The concerto is in three movements:
  1. Allegro molto moderato (A minor)
  2. Adagio (D flat major)
  3. Allegro moderato molto e marcato - Andante quasi - Presto (A minor → F major → A major)


The concerto was originally scored for 2 flute
The flute is a musical instrument of the woodwind family. Unlike woodwind instruments with reeds, a flute is an aerophone or reedless wind instrument that produces its sound from the flow of air across an opening...

s, 2 oboe
The oboe is a double reed musical instrument of the woodwind family. In English, prior to 1770, the instrument was called "hautbois" , "hoboy", or "French hoboy". The spelling "oboe" was adopted into English ca...

s, 2 clarinet
The clarinet is a musical instrument of woodwind type. The name derives from adding the suffix -et to the Italian word clarino , as the first clarinets had a strident tone similar to that of a trumpet. The instrument has an approximately cylindrical bore, and uses a single reed...

s in A and B flat, 2 bassoon
The bassoon is a woodwind instrument in the double reed family that typically plays music written in the bass and tenor registers, and occasionally higher. Appearing in its modern form in the 19th century, the bassoon figures prominently in orchestral, concert band and chamber music literature...

s, 2 horns
Horn (instrument)
The horn is a brass instrument consisting of about of tubing wrapped into a coil with a flared bell. A musician who plays the horn is called a horn player ....

 in E and E flat, 2 trumpet
The trumpet is the musical instrument with the highest register in the brass family. Trumpets are among the oldest musical instruments, dating back to at least 1500 BCE. They are played by blowing air through closed lips, producing a "buzzing" sound which starts a standing wave vibration in the air...

s in C and B flat, 2 trombone
The trombone is a musical instrument in the brass family. Like all brass instruments, sound is produced when the player’s vibrating lips cause the air column inside the instrument to vibrate...

s, tuba
The tuba is the largest and lowest-pitched brass instrument. Sound is produced by vibrating or "buzzing" the lips into a large cupped mouthpiece. It is one of the most recent additions to the modern symphony orchestra, first appearing in the mid-19th century, when it largely replaced the...

, timpani
Timpani, or kettledrums, are musical instruments in the percussion family. A type of drum, they consist of a skin called a head stretched over a large bowl traditionally made of copper. They are played by striking the head with a specialized drum stick called a timpani stick or timpani mallet...

 and strings (violin
The violin is a string instrument, usually with four strings tuned in perfect fifths. It is the smallest, highest-pitched member of the violin family of string instruments, which includes the viola and cello....

s, viola
The viola is a bowed string instrument. It is the middle voice of the violin family, between the violin and the cello.- Form :The viola is similar in material and construction to the violin. A full-size viola's body is between and longer than the body of a full-size violin , with an average...

s, cello
The cello is a bowed string instrument with four strings tuned in perfect fifths. It is a member of the violin family of musical instruments, which also includes the violin, viola, and double bass. Old forms of the instrument in the Baroque era are baryton and viol .A person who plays a cello is...

s and double bass
Double bass
The double bass, also called the string bass, upright bass, standup bass or contrabass, is the largest and lowest-pitched bowed string instrument in the modern symphony orchestra, with strings usually tuned to E1, A1, D2 and G2...

es). He later added 2 horns and changed the tuba to a third trombone.

History and influences

The work is among Grieg's earliest important works, written by the 24-year-old composer in 1868 in Søllerød, Denmark
Denmark is a Scandinavian country in Northern Europe. The countries of Denmark and Greenland, as well as the Faroe Islands, constitute the Kingdom of Denmark . It is the southernmost of the Nordic countries, southwest of Sweden and south of Norway, and bordered to the south by Germany. Denmark...

, during one of his visits there to benefit from the climate, which was warmer than that of his native Norway
Norway , officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic unitary constitutional monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Jan Mayen, and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and Bouvet Island. Norway has a total area of and a population of about 4.9 million...


Grieg's concerto is often compared to the Piano Concerto
Piano Concerto (Schumann)
The Piano Concerto in A minor, Op.54, is a famous Romantic concerto by Robert Schumann, completed in 1845.Schumann had begun several piano concerti before this one: In 1828, he had begun one in E-flat major; from 1829-31 he worked on one in F major, and in 1839, he wrote one movement of a concerto...

 of Robert Schumann
Robert Schumann
Robert Schumann, sometimes known as Robert Alexander Schumann, was a German composer, aesthete and influential music critic. He is regarded as one of the greatest and most representative composers of the Romantic era....

 — it is in the same key
Key (music)
In music theory, the term key is used in many different and sometimes contradictory ways. A common use is to speak of music as being "in" a specific key, such as in the key of C major or in the key of F-sharp. Sometimes the terms "major" or "minor" are appended, as in the key of A minor or in the...

, the opening descending flourish on the piano is similar, and the overall style is considered to be closer to Schumann than any other single composer. Grieg had heard Schumann's concerto played by Clara Schumann
Clara Schumann
Clara Schumann was a German musician and composer, considered one of the most distinguished pianists of the Romantic era...

 in Leipzig
Leipzig Leipzig has always been a trade city, situated during the time of the Holy Roman Empire at the intersection of the Via Regia and Via Imperii, two important trade routes. At one time, Leipzig was one of the major European centres of learning and culture in fields such as music and publishing...

 in 1858, and was greatly influenced by Schumann's style generally, having been taught the piano by Schumann's friend, Ernst Ferdinand Wenzel. Compact disc
Compact Disc
The Compact Disc is an optical disc used to store digital data. It was originally developed to store and playback sound recordings exclusively, but later expanded to encompass data storage , write-once audio and data storage , rewritable media , Video Compact Discs , Super Video Compact Discs ,...

 recordings often pair the two concertos.

Additionally, Grieg's work provides evidence of his interest in Norwegian folk music; the opening flourish is based around the motif of a falling minor second (see interval
Interval (music)
In music theory, an interval is a combination of two notes, or the ratio between their frequencies. Two-note combinations are also called dyads...

) followed by a falling major third, which is typical of the folk music of Grieg's native country. This specific motif occurs in other works by Grieg, including the String Quartet. In the last movement of the concerto, similarities to the halling
Halling (dance)
The Halling is a folk dance traditionally performed in rural Norway, although versions of the halling can also be found in parts of Sweden. It is the most ancient documented dance of North Europe, and its roots go back to 2500 years old cave paintings.The dance is traditionally performed by...

 (a Norwegian folk dance) and imitations of the Hardanger fiddle (the Norwegian folk fiddle) have been detected.
The work was premiered by Edmund Neupert
Edmund Neupert
Edmund Neupert was a Norwegian pianist and composer.He was a teacher at the Stern Conservatory in Berlin from 1866-1868. He then moved to Copenhagen, where he held a position at the town's conservatory for two years. In 1881 he travelled to Moscow, and in 1882 he moved to Christiania , where he...

 on April 3, 1869 in Copenhagen
Copenhagen is the capital and largest city of Denmark, with an urban population of 1,199,224 and a metropolitan population of 1,930,260 . With the completion of the transnational Øresund Bridge in 2000, Copenhagen has become the centre of the increasingly integrating Øresund Region...

, with Holger Simon Paulli
Holger Simon Paulli
Holger Simon Paulli was a Danish conductor and composer.Paulli was a violin student of Claus Schall. He joined the Royal Danish Orchestra, and became its conductor in 1864. At the same time, he also conducted the Orchestra of the Cecilia Foreningen, and assumed the directorship of the Copenhagen...

 conducting. Some sources say that Grieg himself, an excellent pianist, was the soloist, but he was unable to attend the premiere owing to commitments with an orchestra in Christiania (now Oslo
Oslo is a municipality, as well as the capital and most populous city in Norway. As a municipality , it was established on 1 January 1838. Founded around 1048 by King Harald III of Norway, the city was largely destroyed by fire in 1624. The city was moved under the reign of Denmark–Norway's King...

). Among those who did attend the premiere were the Danish composer Niels Gade and the Russian pianist Anton Rubinstein
Anton Rubinstein
Anton Grigorevich Rubinstein was a Russian-Jewish pianist, composer and conductor. As a pianist he was regarded as a rival of Franz Liszt, and he ranks amongst the great keyboard virtuosos...

, who provided his own piano for the occasion. Neupert was also the dedicatee of the second edition of the concerto (Rikard Nordraak
Rikard Nordraak
Rikard Nordraak was a Norwegian composer. He is best known as the composer of the Norwegian national anthem.-Biography:...

 was the original dedicatee), and it was said that he himself composed the first movement cadenza.

The Norwegian premiere in Christiania followed on August 7, 1869, and the piece was later heard in Germany in 1872 and England in 1874. The work was first published in Leipzig
Leipzig Leipzig has always been a trade city, situated during the time of the Holy Roman Empire at the intersection of the Via Regia and Via Imperii, two important trade routes. At one time, Leipzig was one of the major European centres of learning and culture in fields such as music and publishing...

 in 1872, but only after Johan Svendsen
Johan Svendsen
Johan Severin Svendsen was a Norwegian composer, conductor and violinist. Born in Christiania , Norway, he lived most his life in Copenhagen, Denmark....

 intervened on Grieg's behalf.

The concerto is the first piano concerto ever recorded — by pianist Wilhelm Backhaus
Wilhelm Backhaus
Wilhelm Backhaus was a German pianist and pedagogue.Born in Leipzig, Backhaus studied at the conservatoire there with Alois Reckendorf until 1899, later taking private piano lessons with Eugen d'Albert in Frankfurt...

 in 1909. Due to the technology of the time, it was heavily abridged at only six minutes.

Grieg revised the work at least seven times, usually in subtle ways, but amounting to over 300 differences from the original orchestration. In one of these revisions, he undid Franz Liszt
Franz Liszt
Franz Liszt ; ), was a 19th-century Hungarian composer, pianist, conductor, and teacher.Liszt became renowned in Europe during the nineteenth century for his virtuosic skill as a pianist. He was said by his contemporaries to have been the most technically advanced pianist of his age...

's suggestion to give the second theme of the first movement (as well as the first theme of the second) to the trumpet
The trumpet is the musical instrument with the highest register in the brass family. Trumpets are among the oldest musical instruments, dating back to at least 1500 BCE. They are played by blowing air through closed lips, producing a "buzzing" sound which starts a standing wave vibration in the air...

 rather than to the cello
The cello is a bowed string instrument with four strings tuned in perfect fifths. It is a member of the violin family of musical instruments, which also includes the violin, viola, and double bass. Old forms of the instrument in the Baroque era are baryton and viol .A person who plays a cello is...

. The final version of the concerto was completed only a few weeks before Grieg's death, and it is this version that has achieved worldwide popularity. The original 1868 version has been recorded, by Love Derwinger, with the Norrköping Symphony Orchestra under Jun'ichi Hirokami.

Grieg worked on a transcription of the concerto for two solo pianos, which was completed by Károly Thern
Károly Thern
Károly Thern was a Hungarian composer, pianist, conductor and arranger. He was among the second generation of composers who developed the language of Hungarian art music....

. The premiere recording of this version was by the British two-piano team of Anthony Goldstone and Caroline Clemmow.

On April 2, 1951, Russian-born American pianist Simon Barere
Simon Barere
Simon Barere was a renowned Russian pianist. His Russian surname Барер is transliterated Barer, however, as an adult he changed the spelling to Barere in order to reduce the frequency of mispronunciation.-Biography:...

 collapsed while playing the first few bars of the concerto, in a performance with conductor Eugene Ormandy
Eugene Ormandy
Eugene Ormandy was a Hungarian-born conductor and violinist.-Early life:Born Jenő Blau in Budapest, Hungary, Ormandy began studying violin at the Royal National Hungarian Academy of Music at the age of five...

 and the Philadelphia Orchestra
Philadelphia Orchestra
The Philadelphia Orchestra is a symphony orchestra based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in the United States. One of the "Big Five" American orchestras, it was founded in 1900...

 at Carnegie Hall
Carnegie Hall
Carnegie Hall is a concert venue in Midtown Manhattan in New York City, United States, located at 881 Seventh Avenue, occupying the east stretch of Seventh Avenue between West 56th Street and West 57th Street, two blocks south of Central Park....

 in New York
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

. He died backstage shortly afterwards. It was to have been Barere's first performance of the work.

In 1882–83 Grieg worked on a second piano concerto in B minor, but it was never completed. The sketches for the concerto have been recorded by pianist Einar Steen-Nøkleberg.

Popular culture references

The enduring popularity of Grieg's Piano Concerto has ensured its use in a wide variety of contexts.
  • The Concerto was featured in the film The Seventh Veil
    The Seventh Veil
    The Seventh Veil is a 1945 British melodrama film made by Ortus Films, a company established by producer Sydney Box, who here released through General Film Distributors in the UK and Universal Pictures in the United States.-Plot:...

    (1945) as the piece played by the young concert pianist (Ann Todd
    Ann Todd
    Dorothy Anne Todd was an English actress and producer.She was born in Hartford, Cheshire and was educated at St. Winifrid's School, Eastbourne. She became a popular actress from appearing in such films as Perfect Strangers and The Seventh Veil...

    ; the uncredited pianist was Eileen Joyce
    Eileen Joyce
    Eileen Alannah Joyce CMG was an Australian pianist whose career spanned more than 30 years. She lived in England in her adult years....

  • It was famously parodied in Franz Reizenstein
    Franz Reizenstein
    Franz Theodor Reizenstein was a German-born British composer and concert pianist. He left Germany for sanctuary in Britain in 1934 and went on to have his career there, including teaching at the Royal Northern College of Music and Boston University, as well as performing.-Life and work:Franz...

    's Concerto Popolare of 1959 (written for Gerard Hoffnung
    Gerard Hoffnung
    Gerard Hoffnung was an artist and musician, best known for his humorous works.- Early years :Born in Berlin, and named Gerhard, he was the only child of a well-to-do Jewish couple, Hildegard and Ludwig Hoffnung...

    's music festival).
  • The opening theme of the first movement was used in the song "Asia Minor", a top-ten pop hit from 1961. The title of the song was also based on the key of the concerto, A minor.
  • Excerpts from the first movement are incorporated into the number "Rosemary", in the musical How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
    How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
    How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying is a musical with music and lyrics by Frank Loesser and book by Abe Burrows, Jack Weinstock, and Willie Gilbert, based on Shepherd Mead's 1952 book of the same name....

  • The concerto was used in a sketch by the British comedians Morecambe and Wise
    Morecambe and Wise
    Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise, usually referred to as Morecambe and Wise, or Eric and Ernie, were a British comic double act, working in variety, radio, film and most successfully in television. Their partnership lasted from 1941 until Morecambe's death in 1984...

     in their 1971 Christmas show. Conducted by André Previn
    André Previn
    André George Previn, KBE is an American pianist, conductor, and composer. He is considered one of the most versatile musicians in the world, and is the winner of four Academy Awards for his film work and ten Grammy Awards for his recordings. -Early Life:Previn was born in...

    , with Eric Morecambe
    Eric Morecambe
    John Eric Bartholomew OBE , known by his stage name Eric Morecambe, was an English comedian who together with Ernie Wise formed the award-winning double act Morecambe and Wise. The partnership lasted from 1941 until Morecambe's death of a heart attack in 1984...

     as soloist, Morecambe claims he is playing "all the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order". In fact, he was playing a simplified version of the correct music, but in a completely inappropriate style.
  • It is also featured in the 1980s series Beauty and the Beast in the first season's finale entitled "A Happy Life".
  • Parts of it were also used in the movie The Adventures of Milo and Otis
    The Adventures of Milo and Otis
    The Adventures of Milo and Otis is a live action Japanese film about an orange tabby cat named Milo and a fawn pug named Otis.The original Japanese version was released on June 27, 1986, and the reworked English language version was released on August 25, 1989.Initially filmed as Koneko Monogatari...

  • The first movement is used in Adrian Lyne
    Adrian Lyne
    Adrian Lyne is an English filmmaker and producer. He is best known for directing films that focus on sexually charged characters and often uses natural light, a fog machine and other effects to create eroticized atmospheres...

    's 1997 film Lolita
    Lolita (1997 film)
    Lolita is a 1997 French-American drama film directed by Adrian Lyne. It is the second screen adaptation of Vladimir Nabokov's novel of the same name and stars Jeremy Irons as Humbert Humbert and Dominique Swain as Dolores "Lolita" Haze, with supporting roles by Melanie Griffith as Charlotte Haze,...

  • In 2004, it was featured in a Nike
    Nike, Inc.
    Nike, Inc. is a major publicly traded sportswear and equipment supplier based in the United States. The company is headquartered near Beaverton, Oregon, which is part of the Portland metropolitan area...

  • The second movement was used in a series of British 'Bisto
    Bisto is a well-known brand of traditional British foods in the United Kingdom, most famous for its gravy products.-History:The very first Bisto product, in 1908, was a meat-flavoured gravy powder, which rapidly became a bestseller in the UK. It was added to gravies to give a richer taste and aroma...

     Aah Nights' adverts (released August 2006), in which many people vowed to stay home more often for family dinners.
  • The opening piano piece in the first movement is featured in a 2008 Range Rover commercial.
  • The first movement was used in David Lynch
    David Lynch
    David Keith Lynch is an American filmmaker, television director, visual artist, musician and occasional actor. Known for his surrealist films, he has developed his own unique cinematic style, which has been dubbed "Lynchian", and which is characterized by its dream imagery and meticulous sound...

     and Mark Frost
    Mark Frost
    Mark Frost is an American novelist, television/film writer, director, who is best known as a writer for the TV show Hill Street Blues and co-creator of the show Twin Peaks.-Personal life:...

    's cult TV show Twin Peaks
    Twin Peaks
    Twin Peaks is an American television serial drama created by David Lynch and Mark Frost. The series follows the investigation headed by FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper , of the murder of a popular teenager and homecoming queen, Laura Palmer...

    season 2; episode 21.
  • The first movement was used by composer Mark Snow
    Mark Snow
    Mark Snow is an American composer for film and television.Born in New York, he grew up in Brooklyn, graduating from the High School of Music and Art and, afterwards, the Juilliard School of Music...

     in The X-Files
    The X-Files
    The X-Files is an American science fiction television series and a part of The X-Files franchise, created by screenwriter Chris Carter. The program originally aired from to . The show was a hit for the Fox network, and its characters and slogans became popular culture touchstones in the 1990s...

    episode Salvage.
  • Crossover pianist Maksim Mrvica
    Maksim Mrvica
    Maksim Mrvica is a Croatian pianist. He plays classical crossover music.- History :Mrvica was born in Šibenik, Croatia. He took up piano lessons from the age of nine from Marija Sekso and gave his first public performance in the same year. Just three years later he gave his first concert...

     plays a modernised version in his album The Piano Player.
  • The comedian Bill Bailey
    Bill Bailey
    Bill Bailey is an English comedian, musician and actor. As well as his extensive stand-up work, Bailey is well known for his appearances on Black Books, Never Mind the Buzzcocks, Have I Got News for You, and QI.Bailey was listed by The Observer as one of the 50 funniest acts in British comedy in...

     is a skilled musician, and has used Grieg's piano concerto for comic effect; in the TV Series Black Books
    Black Books
    Black Books is a British sitcom television series created by Dylan Moran and Graham Linehan and produced by Nira Park, first broadcast on Channel 4 from 2000 to 2004...

    it is played by his character Manny Bianco, and it is cited as an example in his solo mock-scholarly sketch on cockney
    The term Cockney has both geographical and linguistic associations. Geographically and culturally, it often refers to working class Londoners, particularly those in the East End...

  • The first five bars are played by pianist Hyung-Ki Joo in one of "A Little Nightmare Music's" skits.



External links

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