Composers / Edvard Grieg / Places catalog
Now a nature reserve. The ruins of Gurre Castle and the marshland around this great lake is the setting for the legend of King Valdemar’s love for the beautiful Little Tove and the jealousy of Queen Helvig. Many poems have been inspired by the folk ballads devoted to that story. The author of the best known epos, Gurresange, is Jens Peter Jacobsen. Arnold Schönberg used Jacobsen’s German translation to compose the monumental cantata Gurrelieder. Grieg visited the lake during his trip to northern Zealand with his friends Christian Horneman and Benjamin Feddersen in the summer of 1865. The composer admired the beautiful castle ruins, which transported him back to the ‘Chronicles from the times of Christian II’ by the Danish poet Carl Bernhard, telling the tale of the nobleman Claus Daa and his betrothed Gundel, who hid in the tower of Gurre Castle when falsely accused of attempting to murder King Christian II. At the same time, Grieg imbibed the fresh gusts of wind that brought invigorating air from over Lake Gurre and remembered that time when, two years earlier, he had met his future wife, Nina. ‘And I thought about the wonderful journey I had taken two years ago with an angel of a young girl – You, my beloved bride, you are that angel! Did you realise then that you might love me, or did you love me already? I remember that I saw an inexpressible gentleness in your eyes, but I was too scared to ascribe it to myself’.
Gurre Castle. (creative commons)
Gurre Lake, photo Rune Engelbreth Larsen.
Nina Hagerup (Grieg), ca. 1864, Bergen Offentlige Bibliotek.