Talented pupils from elementary schools of the arts all over the Czech Republic will be coming together for the third time to form a combined orchestra, and members of the Czech Philharmonic will take part with them in the music making.
Edvard Grieg is best known among music lovers for his famed Piano Concerto in A minor Op. 16 (he worked on a second piano concerto, yet did not complete it) and two suites from the incidental music to Henrik Ibsen’s drama Peer Gynt. The success of these works, however, rewarded his lifelong endeavour to extricate Norwegian music from the trammels of eclecticism, at the same time elevating him to a firm position among the world’s top composers. The character of Ibsen’s Peer Gynt blends juvenile ebullience and tender lyricism. He is defiant, hedonistic and selfish, but he also passionately loves, shuns conventions, and his heart beats with an intensive affection for his homeland.
Ibsen asked Grieg to write music for his play in January 1874. Nonetheless, the fruit of their collaboration did not gain great acclaim on stage, and the score, containing 22 independent numbers, would in all likelihood have fallen into oblivion, as would the dramatic text itself. Aware of this risk, Grieg extracted sections from the incidental music and made out of them two four-movement suites. Suite No. 1 Op. 46, came into being in 1888, while Suite No. 2, Op. 55, was created three years later.
The individual parts above all observe the musical laws of contrast, less so the play’s actual story. Suite No. 1 opens with a characteristic lyrical portrayal of Norwegian nature. Peer Gynt, who has made a great fortune in the slave trade, suddenly pauses in meditation, recalling his native country. The second part describes the passing away of Peer’s mother, who is moved by her son’s tale and humbly accepts her fate. The third section evokes an earthy image of Peer’s greed and pleasure-seeking, within which he is seduced by a sheikh’s daughter through her lascivious dance. The finale of Suite No. 1 takes the listener to the cave of the Mountain King, with Peer Gynt, in a dream-like fantasy, experiencing a bold craving for money, gold and gems. Surrounded by dreadful trolls, gnomes and goblins, the hero withstands the courtiers’ pressure to marry the daughter of the Mountain King.
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