Photographic (and autographed) portrait of Edvard Grieg and his wife (and first cousin) Nina Hagerup, inspiration for almost all of the songs he composed (photograph by Ludwik Szaciński, from Wikimedia Commons, public domain)
It will not take long for anyone consulting the Wikipedia page listing the compositions by Edvard Grieg to discover that, as a composer of vocal works, Grieg was prodigiously prolific. His earliest efforts date back to the age of fifteen, which was the year of his encounter with Norwegian violinist Ole Bull, who persuaded his parents to send him to the Leipzig Conservatory, where he studied piano with Ignaz Moscheles. The latest date in the Wikipedia list is 1905, about two years before his death, by which time he had composed about 170 songs.
Given the extent of that repertoire, it seems more than a little unfair that the Warner Classics’ 13-CD collection entitled Grieg: Piano, Orchestral & Vocal Works, Chamber Music should devote only two CDs to the “vocal works” part of the title. Furthermore, only one of his publications, the Opus 67 Haugtussa (the mountain maid) song cycle, is represented in its entirety. Sadly, Warner did not make any arrangements to provide either texts or translations for any of the songs on the two CDs. Fortunately, Haugtussa has its own Web page on the Web site for The LiederNet Archive. The bad news is that translations are available only in French and German!
Fortunately, the attentive listener should be able to pick up any number of expressive cues from the performances by soprano Siv Wennberg. She is accompanied by Geoffrey Parsons, regarded by many as the worthiest successor to Gerald Moore after Moore’s retirement. However, it would appear that Warner was more interested in singers from a more distant past. Thus, the featured sopranos are Elisabeth Schwarzkopf and Kirsten Flagstad; and the only baritone is Dietrich Fischer-Diskau. Among these three (as might be guessed) only Flagstad sings in Norwegian.
Sadly, it appears that the search engine for Amazon.com is not particularly kind to those seeking out more thorough and/or more recent accounts of Grieg songs. Nevertheless, there is a seven-CD box that Brilliant Classics released at the beginning of 2009. Its Amazon.com Web page claims that “this is the first-ever complete collection of Grieg’s ingenious folk-based songs.” Many might reject this as being too much of a good thing; but it is likely to provide a better account of the full breadth of this portion of the Grieg catalog than Warner Classics was able to muster!