From 1883, Grieg was a keen and frequent visitor to the Netherlands. He had two reasons for visiting Amsterdam, the biggest city in the country. First and foremost because it had an excellent orchestra, of which he was the principal guest conductor – a role in which he enjoyed great popularity. The concert hall building – the Concertgebouw – was among the most beautiful and acoustically perhaps the best in Europe at that time. In 1898, Grieg invited the orchestra to a concert in the First Bergen Music Festival (this drew numerous protests and a great deal of animosity from the Norwegian music environment, leading the composer to threaten to withdraw from the organising of the festival). On that occasion, the orchestra was conducted by its young leader, Willem Mengelberg, a friend of Gustav Mahler and populariser of his music, who would remain its principal conductor for more than thirty years.
The other reason for Grieg’s frequent visits to Amsterdam was his friendship with the young German-Dutch pianist and composer Julius Röntgen, whom he had met in Leipzig. Röntgen lived in Amsterdam with his wife, the Swedish violinist Amanda Maier, and their two sons. Grieg also stayed with Röntgen in 1894, after Amanda’s death, during a tour of the Netherlands. With his second wife, Röntgen had five children, including the sons Edvard Frants and Frants Edvard (named after Grieg and his best friend, Frants Beyer).
Also in Amsterdam, in 1905, Grieg met the talented young Spanish cellist Pablo Casals. Together they played the Cello Sonata in A minor, and the composer praised the young Spaniard for his musicality and his serious approach to music and the art of performance.