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Composer Edvard Grieg, the icon of Norwegian music, left his home in Bergen, Norway to study at the conservatory in Leipzig. There he began his formal musical education under the auspices of Ignaz Moscheles (piano) and Carl Reinecke (composition). While in school, the young composer saw the premiere of his first work, his String Quartet in D minor, performed in Karlshamn, Sweden. Despite being diagnosed with a form of tuberculosis, which left him with only one functioning lung, Grieg graduated from the conservatory in 1862. The composer had an intense desire to develop a national style of composition, but recognized the importance of becoming well versed in the work of the European masters, and consequently relocated to Copenhagen, studying with Niels Gade. He was thus able to remain in Scandanavia, while working in a thriving cultural center. In 1867 against his family's better judgment, Grieg married his cousin Nina Hagerup, a talented pianist, but whose vocal abilities enchanted the composer even more. Shortly after their wedding, the couple moved to Oslo, where Grieg supported them by teaching piano and conducting. He and his wife traveled extensively throughout Europe and it was during a period of time spent in Denmark, the composer wrote his landmark opus, the Piano Concerto in A minor. The premiere was given in 1869, with Edmund Neupert as the soloist. The piece was received with an enthusiasm that would attach itself to the composer's reputation for the remainder of his career.
Grieg admired his literary contemporaries and forged a productive partnership with Bjötjerne Björnson, playwright and poet, with whom he staged performances of such works as Before a Southern Convert, and Bergliot. While Björnson struggled with his output, Grieg met and befriended Henrik Ibsen. The forthcoming collaboration would prove significant for both, as Grieg would supply incidental music to Ibsen's Peer Gynt. The premiere was performed to critical acclaim and eventually led to Grieg's scoring of Peer Gynt into Suites 1 and 2 (1888 and 1893 respectively).
As a result of the success of Peer Gynt, Grieg enjoyed tremendous celebrity and continued to travel extensively, often meeting internationally renowned composers such as Tchaikovsky, Brahms, and Liszt, among others. In addition to a grant he was awarded in 1874, Grieg was able to earn the majority of his money by adhering to a vigorous schedule of recital tours. He served briefly as the music director of the Bergen Symphony Orchestra, and from 1880-1882, held the same position at the Bergen Harmonien. In 1885, Grieg and his wife relocated once again, this time to his native Bergen, Norway, where he built their celebrated home, Troldhaugen. The property, a popular tourist destination to this day, features a secondary building overlooking the water, which the composer used as his work area, as he could only work in solitude. He and his wife summered in Norway and departed each fall for European tours that would last the remainder of the year. Grieg also conducted extensively throughout his country.
Grieg was adored wherever he traveled and lived at a pace that would eventually catch up with him. Grieg died of chronic fatigue, with much credit given to his lifelong health problems, in his hometown of Bergen.
Norway's most famous composer, dedicated his career to the pursuit of a national sound. The respect he had for his predecessors illustrates the sincerity with which he worked towards this goal. He wrote in the Romantic tradition with, in his own words, the determination to "create a national form of music, which could give the Norwegian people an identity."
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