Composers / Edvard Grieg / Routes
Edvard Grieg first travelled to Rome in December 1865 and stayed there for four months, until April 1866. He arrived in the Eternal City on 11 December and that same day began visiting the city. He rented a room with an upright piano at 100 Via Sistina. He would spend the evenings at the Scandinavian Society, where he first met Henrik Ibsen and the Norwegian poet Andreas Munch, as well as other Scandinavian writers, musicians and artists. He heard Ferenc Liszt play the piano and also outstanding Italian musicians. During that first trip to Italy, he did not compose very much, really only four compositions: the orchestral overture Autumn, Op. 11, two songs to words by Andreas Munch, Op. 9 Nos. 1 and 2 and the Funeral March for Rikard Nordraak, CW117. He absorbed impressions, listened to many concerts and visited the historical buildings and museums, including the Vatican Museum, the Pantheon and numerous Roman churches, with their treasures of art and sculpture. He admired the beauty of Roman women and was swept away by the atmosphere during the Roman carnival. He also travelled around the Rome area; he visited Hadrian’s Villa and the Tivoli, Naples and Sorrento. His favourite hill was Monte Pincio, with its exquisite view over the whole of Rome. Before Christmas 1869, Grieg returned to Rome, this time accompanied by his wife, Nina. That second trip did not make such an impression upon him as the first. He had two meetings with Ferenc Liszt, who captivated him with his playing and his enthusiastic opinion of Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A minor. The Griegs came to Rome again in 1884, following a serious marital crisis. They stayed in the Eternal City for four months, during which one evening in particular stuck in their memories. On that memorable day, Nina sang all her husband’s songs to words by Henrik Ibsen, with Edvard accompanying her on the piano. After the rendition of ‘The Swan’, Op. 25 No. 2, Ibsen, who was present at the concert, approached the piano with tears in his eyes and, unable to say anything due to his gratitude and great emotion, merely shook the performers’ hands. Grieg’s last visit to Rome came in March and April 1899, when he conducted the orchestra of the Accademia di Santa Cecilia. The programme of that concert comprised songs to words by Ibsen, the Piano Concerto in A minor, the Elegiac Melodies for string orchestra, Peer Gynt Suite No. 1 and excerpts from his music to the play Sigurd Jorsalfar. The concert was not a success. For all his fondness of Italians, Grieg complained about the poor discipline of the Italian musicians.