Peer Gynt – a great play nobody sees but with music we all know.

Hendrik Klausen as Peer Gynt (1876)

A lot of pople have only ever heard of Peer Gynt because of a few big tunes written by the Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg on the invitation of the equally Norwegian playwright Hendrik Ibsen for his poetic drama, Peer Gynt. The music, written in this week’s featured year, 1875, is seldom performed with the play these days and the play itself is seldom produced. As with the other pieces I’ve discussed this week, it is not so much the work itself but the hit tunes that have kept Peer Gynt alive. Once more, if you think you don’t know these pieces then, you would be wrong.

Edvard Grieg (1843-1907)

Hendrik Ibsen (1828 – 1906)

Here is “that” tune – Morning Mood – we think of fjords but Grieg was actually trying to depict an Arabian desert scene. Sorry Edvard, it says fjords to me.

All the pieces featured this week have been used by inventive choreographers to create some interesting ballet productions, here is a production of a Peer Gynt ballet that uses Grieg’s music along with contemporary music and a mix of spoken word and dance that gets near to the dreamlike world of Ibsen’s original.  The choreographer was Heinz Spoerli and the dancers, with Marijn Rademaker as Peer, are from the Zurich Ballet Theatre. The music here, Aase’s Death, is one of Grieg’s hit tunes – Peer Gynt witness the death of his mother, Aase.

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