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In the Hall of the Mountain King

In the Hall of the Mountain King

Selected Composition

 

Edvard Grieg, Peer Gynt Suite No. 1, Op. 46: IV—"In the Hall of the Mountain King"

 

 

Program Notes

 

No one goes to see Peer Gynt, the play—but everyone goes to hear the music Edvard Grieg wrote for it. From the play's first performance, audiences and critics alike have marveled that a play such as Peer Gynt could inspire truly wonderful music.

 

 

The Forty Scenes of the Play, Summarized

 

Peer Gynt is supposed to be an anti-hero—and boy, is he. His chief aims in life are to torment the pretty Solveig, to never work, and to use people in every conceivable way. Naturally, Solveig is madly in love with him. Discerning this, Peer Gynt declares that he must leave for a time, but that he will return. He does return—fifty years later. Old and out of money and people to scam, he crawls back to Solveig. We (exhausted in the audience) must now endure the spectacle of seeing her cook and clean for him.

 

The Wikipedia article on Peer Gynt kindly describes the play as: "the story of a life based on procrastination and avoidance." This leaves out Gynt's pathological cold-heartedness, his slave-trading, and his cynical "piety." Worldwide, Ibsen's play was commonly received with hostility. This continues to the present.

 

But that is not the case with Grieg's music.

 

 

In the Hall of the Mountain King

 

Grieg wisely freed his music from Ibsen's play. He extracted eight pieces and published them in two suites, Op. 46 and Op. 55 (the complete incidental music has also been published). Each piece of the two suites is beloved, notable for such works as "Morning Mood" and "Anitra's Dance."

 

"In the Hall of the Mountain King" is a standout. Here is a link to it on Amazon.com, as performed by the Utah Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Maurice Abravanel:

 

Edvard Grieg, Peer Gynt Suite No. 1, Op. 46: IV—"In the Hall of the Mountain King"

 

 

In the play, Gynt meets three milkmaids waiting in a field to be ravished by trolls. Intrigued by this (and perhaps hoping to get in on the action), Gynt hangs around. He pulls out the ever-present liquor from his knapsack—and wakes chained under the mountain, in The Hall of the Mountain King. The troll king orders his subjects to "Smash [Gynt] to bits!" But not that night: the king is too tired. Straitaway, he falls asleep. Disrespecting their king's slumbers, the trolls enjoy a raucous revelry, during which Gynt makes his escape. There is no word of the milkmaids.

 

 

Coda

 

Today is the 173rd birthday of Edvard Grieg (15 June 1843 – 4 September 1907). I originally intended to write about "Solveig's Song." It is very beautiful, but it is also (unsurprisingly) very sad. We've had lots of sad in this blog. I decided to write about something the opposite of sad. The only thing sad about "In the Hall of the Mountain King" is that Peer Gynt escapes being put into a stew pot.

 

 

 

 

I created "Lighted Lamps," the image above, on my computer in 2006. It is based on Mandelbrot fractals. The title is from Exodus 40:25 (KJV): "And he lighted the lamps before the Lord."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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