Suite for String Orchestra, Op. 40
In 1884 Norway celebrated thc second centenary of the birth of Ludvig Holberg (1684—1754), the great Scandinavian writer of comedies.
On this oceasion Edvard Grieg wrote a suite called ˝From Holberg’s Time˝. At the commemoration ceremony, which took place on December 3rd, 1884 in the market place of Bergen, the composer conducted the highly successful Suite ˝in a fur coat, fur-lined boots and ditto cap˝.
To be sure, Grieg wrote to his publisher three years later: ˝It is unfortunately not very flattering . . . that the Holberg Suite should have been so very succcssful, because there I denied my own personality completely in order to disinter for a short moment times which are faded and gone.˝
Yet the movcments of this eharming Suite, presenting a picture of northern Rococo, display a good many facets of the composer’s individual style.
The significant Prelude with its improvisatory episodes and baroque cadence formulae does, in fact, hide Grieg; but his personal mode of expression is projected in the next movement, a dignified Sarabande, and even more so in the Gavotte, which includes an original trio, consisting of a Musette with intervals of the fifth given by the droning bagpipe.
The Air is forceful in expression, revealing clearly a ˝Scandinavian˝ trend, whilst the last movement, a Rigaudon, retains the colouring of the old conventional form in spite of all attempts at transmutation.
Many melodious changes and a subtle rhythmic show the master’s ability to resurrect the style of the 18th century.
Baroque and Rococo are here displayed in a metamorphosis requiring an amount of artistic feeling which only a creative artist of Grieg’s calibre could provide.