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Born: 15 June 1843 — Bergen — Norway
Died: 4 September 1907 — Bergen — Norway
Record Label
BIS Records
Tasmin's introduction
to Grieg's Sonata No.2
(9 -11) Edvard Grieg - Sonata No.2 in G major Op.13 - 20'52
Edvard Grieg ..(( & play)

Although Grieg, like Bach and Mozart, was a pianist, he wrote three sonatas for violin, the first two written between 1865 and 1867 when he was in his early twenties. There is a feeling of real exuberance about this piece and the tunes seem to flow readily and effortlessly, combining lyricism and drama. It is the only major work that I know where each of the themes is in 3/4, and perhaps this is why the feeling of dance pervades the whole sonata, whether it is a slow and stately dance, as in the second movement, or the fast and furious romp of the last movement! The only part of the work which is not in the time signature of 3 is the very opening which bears little relation to anything else in the piece. Grieg marks it Lento Doloroso - slowly and painfully - and this melancholy opening belies what is to follow, but it allows the protagonists to be introduced individually. - after the piano’s introduction, the violin enters in a bravura cadenza. 


Grieg is wonderfully adept at setting scenes and there is a wistful section that follows, making the listener wonder where the music is taking us. There is a real feeling of a journey being undertaken here...


But when the main theme begins, the mood of the piece is at once obvious and the excitement is tangible.


The second subject has just as much sense of purpose but is more introverted in character.


The middle section of the movement is surprising, as Grieg focusses only on the triplet motif from the theme before developing the theme of the second subject in a rather mysterious way.


After the developmenet section, the main theme returns in what is called the Recapitulation and we hear the second subject once more before the music builds to a climax and finishes with a flourish.


The second movement is in the relative minor key of E minor and is introspective and stately in feeling. Once again, the piano introduces the theme and the violin takes it up afterwards.


The middle section of this takes us to the brighter key of E major for a naive and rather folky melody.


Then the first theme returns for a restatement which leads to a final coda section and the movement ends with tragic resignation.
However, Grieg breaks this mood instantly with a rustic Hornpipe opening to the last movement which is almost reminiscent of a Hurdy gurdy.  I love this theme which joyously bounds along and cheekily leads you up the garden path, only to coquetishly take a step back every so often...


The middle section takes us to E flat major and a more tranquil theme where clouds temporarily block the sunny atmosphere


But these clouds disappear in a brief storm and the first subject appears once more, gaining momentum to a wonderfully joyful conclusion.  What a life-affirming piece!