Holberg Suite

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The Holberg Suite, Op. 40, more properly From Holberg's Time (Norwegian: Fra Holbergs tid), subtitled "Suite in olden style" (Norwegian: Suite i gammel stil), is a suite of five movements based on eighteenth-century dance forms, written by Edvard Grieg in 1884 to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Dano-Norwegian humanist playwright Ludvig Holberg (1684–1754).

It exemplifies nineteenth-century music which makes use of musical styles and forms from the preceding century. Although not as famous as Grieg's incidental music from Peer Gynt, which is itself usually performed as arranged in a pair of suites, many critics regard the works as of equal merit.[1]

Background[edit]

The Holberg Suite was originally composed for the piano, but a year later was adapted by Grieg himself for string orchestra. The suite consists of an introduction and a set of dances. It is an early essay in neoclassicism, an attempt to echo as much as was known in Grieg's time of the music of Holberg's era.[2]

Structure[edit]

The movements of the suite are:

  1. Praeludium (Allegro vivace)
    Orchesterwerke Romantik Themen.pdf
  2. Sarabande (Andante)
    Orchesterwerke Romantik Themen.pdf
  3. Gavotte (Allegretto)
    Orchesterwerke Romantik Themen.pdf
  4. Air (Andante religioso)
    Orchesterwerke Romantik Themen.pdf
  5. Rigaudon (Allegro con brio)
    Orchesterwerke Romantik Themen.pdf

Piano version and string orchestration[edit]

"The music is thought out most idiomatically for both forces."[3] However, the version for string orchestra differs in a number of respects from the solo piano original. The prelude in the piano version opens with a series of arpeggios:

Holberg Suite prelude bars 1 and 2 piano version
Holberg Suite prelude bars 1 and 2 piano version

The orchestral version replaces these with chords repeated in a dactylic rhythm:

Holberg Suite prelude bars 1 and 2 string version
Holberg Suite prelude bars 1 and 2 string version

Another striking transformation occurs in bars 31 to 34 of the prelude, which was originally conceived for piano as follows:

Holberg Suite prelude bars 31 to 34 piano version
Holberg Suite prelude bars 31 to 34 piano version

Grieg's orchestration develops this into a series of chords played by divisi violins. To this he adds a new counterpoint consisting of scales played pizzicato on violas:

Holberg Suite prelude bars 31 to 34 string version
Holberg Suite prelude bars 31 to 34 string version

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Krellmann, Hanspeter. Edvard Grieg (1999), Reinbek: Rowohlt ISBN 978-3-499-50430-3
  2. ^ Mozart: Eine kleine Nachtmusik, Serenata of London, from the CD booklet by Leonard Burkat, 1987, MCD Records (barcode 0-7674-25162-2-2)
  3. ^ Schlotel, Brian (1986). Grieg. London: BBC Musical Guides. p. 24. ISBN 9780563204794.

External links[edit]