Edvard Grieg September Festival

The Edvard Grieg September Festival is largest of three official events held in Norway as part of the Grieg 2007 commemorative programme. A series of concerts and cultural events has been organised to mark the 100th anniversary of the composer’s death. Foremost among these will be the opening of the Sleppet exhibition and the Music and Identity symposium. 

On 4 September 2007, the 100th anniversary of Edvard Grieg’s death was officially commemorated at his home, Troldhaugen. This special event featured the pianist Leif Ove Andsnes, who performed Grieg’s Ballade in G Minor.  

“The anniversary will be both a solemn and a joyful day. We will be taking up topics that concern us today, such as human rights,” said Ragna Sofie Grung Moe, director of Grieg 07, in advance of the event. 

Further events on the day included a torchlight procession, a tribute to Grieg by the actor Bjarte Hjelmeland and a concert entitled Grieg Dressed in Chinese Sounds, at which the composer’s music was performed on traditional Chinese instruments by the Chinese National Orchestra. 

On 5 September, the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, featuring Leif Ove Andsnes as soloist, performed Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A Minor. Mr Andsnes has made a new recording of Grieg’s Ballade in G Minor, which was launched at the festival. Sixteen foreign journalists, including writers from The Times, Die Zeit, Le Figaro and Korean, Spanish and Dutch newspapers, have been invited to the Festival by Norwegian diplomatic and consular missions and the Festival’s organisers. 

Sleppet 

The programme for the September Festival in Bergen has three elements: Grieg the composer, Grieg the humanist and Grieg the sampler (the collector of sounds). The theme of the sampler has been chosen due to Edvard Grieg’s interest in the sounds he heard in nature and folk music. Like many composers of his time, his interest in this area was an expression of a process of national awakening and identity-building. Grieg made extensive use of Norwegian folk music elements in his works. 

“We wondered what Grieg would have done if he had had access to today’s technology,” said Ms Grung Moe. “We therefore invited six artists from the US, Germany, England and Norway to travel around western Norway in April and May 2007 to make sound recordings and experience west Norwegian nature and rural culture. They visited Nordfjord during the horse-mating season, Jostedalsbreen (the Jostedal glacier), Utvær (Norway’s westernmost point) and Bergen in all its drizzly spring glory. 

“Spring offers a wealth of tonal and conceptual inspiration, in nature, towns and cities,” said Ms Grung Moe. The tour has resulted in an exhibition of installation art, video pieces and sound art which opened in Bergen on 31 August and will go on to tour in Norway and abroad. 

Music and Identity 

Edvard Grieg’s humanism is reflected in his creed: “One must first be a human being. All true art grows out of that which is distinctively human.” Grieg the humanist focuses on the role of art and artists in promoting human rights and freedom of expression.  

“The international symposium Music and Identity, which is being held from 13 to 14 September, is the heart of the Festival,” said Ms Grung Moe. “Many Norwegians feel that Grieg’s music is typically Norwegian, while many people in other countries are captivated by Grieg’s harmony and use of melody. We are trying to find out what music means for the development of both individuals and nations.” Grieg 07 and the Rafto Human Rights House have invited international researchers in the field of music therapy to give lectures at the symposium. “We are pleased with the high quality and international breadth of the lecturers,” said Ms Grung Moe.  

Ms Grung Moe sums up the aim of the September Festival: “We are seeking to consolidate our cultural traditions by focusing on Grieg, while also building relationships for the future. We want to bring important cultural issues into focus. How are we using Norwegian culture abroad? Is culture being used to stimulate reflection and enhance Norway’s visibility? We want to dust off established perceptions of Norwegian culture,” said Ms Grung Moe. She also points out the successful cooperation between Grieg 07, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Norwegian diplomatic and consular missions.  

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Norwegian diplomatic and consular missions are supporting the Grieg-year activities and cooperating with Grieg 07 on international events. The Ministry and Grieg 07 have also collaborated on making information on Edvard Grieg and Grieg-year activities available in 19 languages on norway.info, the website of Norway’s diplomatic and consular missions. In addition, various publicity materials have been produced in connection with the commemorative events. 

The Edvard Grieg September Festival is the last of the three official events marking the Grieg year in Norway. The first event took place in Tromsø on 27 January, while the second was held in Oslo on 15 June. The September Festival began on 31 August, and will run until 16 September.