Violin Sonatas (Grieg)

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Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg wrote three violin sonatas. They are all examples of his musical nationalism, since they all contain references or similarities to Norwegian folk song.

The three Sonatas for violin and piano by Edvard Grieg were written between 1865 and 1887.

  • Violin Sonata No. 1 in F major, Op. 8 was written in Copenhagen in 1865.
  • Violin Sonata No. 2 in G major, Op. 13 was written in Oslo (then Christiania) in 1867.
  • Violin Sonata No. 3 in C minor, Op. 45 was completed while Grieg was living in Troldhaugen in 1887.

Violin Sonata No. 1 in F major, Op. 8[edit]

Grieg composed this sonata in the summer of 1865 while on holiday with Benjamin Feddersen in Rungsted, Denmark, near Copenhagen. The piece was composed shortly after his only piano sonata was completed that same summer.[1]

Concerning the piece, Norwegian composer Gerhard Schjelderup commented: it is "the work of a youth who has seen only the sunny side of life." [2]

The violin's opening theme in the first movement runs thus:

Grieg1viol.png  : 1st mvt, violin, primary theme

Violin Sonata No. 2 in G major, Op. 13[edit]

This sonata was dedicated to Norwegian composer and violinist Johan Svendsen.[3]

On the second sonata, Schjelderup remarked: it is "the gift to the world of a man who has also shivered in the cold mists of night." Also, due to the sonata's tragic qualities, he considered the piece more Norwegian than the first sonata and "a Norway without tragedy is not a complete Norway."[4]

When Grieg presented the sonata to his teacher Niels Gade, he proclaimed the work "too Norwegian" and professed that his next sonata should be less Norwegian. Grieg, reportedly, in defiance claimed that his next sonata would be even more Norwegian.[1]

The violin's primary and secondary themes from the first movement are presented below:

Grieg2viol1.png : 1st mvt, violin, primary theme

Grieg2viol2.png : 1st mvt, violin, secondary theme

Violin Sonata No. 3 in C minor, Op. 45[edit]

Composition on Grieg's third and final violin sonata began in the autumn of 1886. Whereas the first two sonatas were written in a matter of weeks, this sonata took him several months to complete.[5]

The sonata remains the most popular of the three works, and has established itself in the standard repertoire. The work was also a personal favorite of Grieg's. The sonata premiered with Grieg himself at the piano with well-known violinist Adolf Brodsky in Leipzig. To a certain extent, Grieg built on Norwegian folk melodies and rhythms in this three-movement sonata. However, for Grieg the second sonata was the "Norwegian" sonata whereas he considered the third "the one with the broader horizon".[6]

The first movement is characterized by its bold and heroic opening theme.

Grieg3viol1.png : 1st mvt, violin, opening bars to the primary theme

The agitated opening theme is contrasted with a more lyrical secondary theme.

Grieg3viol2.png : 1st mvt, violin, portion of the secondary theme

The second movement opens with a serene piano solo in E major with a lyrical melodic line. In the middle section, Grieg uses a playful dance tune. The finale is written in sonata form with coda but lacks a development section.[5]

This was the last piece Grieg composed using sonata form.[7]


  1. ^ a b Henry Theophilus Finck. Grieg and His Music. (New York: Dodd, Mead and Co., 1922), 36-39.
  2. ^ Finck. 195.
  3. ^ Finck. 58.
  4. ^ Finck. 195.
  5. ^ a b Chris Woodstra, et al. All music Guide to Classical Music: The Definitive Guide to Classical Music. (San Francisco, CA: Backbeat Books, 2005). 531.
  6. ^ Oelmann, Klaus Henning (1993): Edvard Grieg - Versuch einer Orientierung. Egelsbach Köln New York: Verlag Hänsel-Hohenhausen 1993, pp. 117, 366-373
  7. ^ Finck. 238. The sole notable exception is perhaps his string quartet in F major, EG 117 (1891), whose first two movements Grieg more or less finished in 1891 (and whose second pair he returned to in 1906 in another failed attempt. His friend Julius Röntgen prepared an edition for Peters of the 2 movements Grieg finished, after Grieg's death, which were premiered at his home in November 1907 and published by Peters in 1908 ( ).)

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