Grieg – Holberg Suite

Last updated Jan 30, 2024 | Published on Nov 11, 2021

Winner of a fellowship at the Bayreuther Festspiele, Mr. Griglio’s conducting has been praised for his “energy” and “fine details”. Mr. Griglio took part in the first world recording of music by composer Irwin Bazelon and conducted several world premieres like "The song of Eddie", by Harold Farberman, a candidate for the Pulitzer Prize. Principal Conductor of International Opera Theater Philadelphia for four years, Mr.Griglio is also active as a composer. His first opera, Camille Claudel, debuted in 2013 to a great success of audience and critics. Mr. Griglio is presently working on an opera on Caravaggio and Music Director of Opera Odyssey.

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The Holberg Suite op. 40 or, more properly, “From the time of Holberg”, subtitled “Suite in the old style”, is a five-movement suite based on 18th-century dances, composed by Edvard Grieg in 1884, on the occasion of the celebration of the 200th anniversary of the birth of humanist and playwright Ludvig Holberg.

It is an example of 19th-century music containing a recovery of the form and musical style of previous centuries. It can be compared to a not-so-famous piece such as À la Chapelle Sixtine by Franz Liszt (with whom, incidentally, Grieg studied for a period of time in Italy), or something that will be written a little later: the Antiche arie e danze by Ottorino Respighi.

Eilif Peterssen, portrait of Edvard Grieg – 1891

This suite was originally written for piano and transcribed for orchestra after the premiere. The structure consists of a corpus of dances, an homage to Holberg’s time.
After a vigorous Prelude there is a Sarabande in the time of Andante, followed by an elegant Gavotte (which develops internally into a Musette). After this, we find an Aria, rich in the legacy of Bach’s arias, written in the tempo of Andante Religious. The suite ends with the quintessential Provencal dance, the Rigaudon.

Holberg Suite – Analysis


Should you need a score you can find one here.

The Prelude – as a form – was historically born as an exclusively instrumental piece, devoid of a codified form and generally placed at the beginning of a staged work. Its purely technical purpose is to “warm up” the instrumentalists, and tell the audience that the show is about to start.

The movement starts with a very rhythmic theme, in an exuberant G major, insisting on a cell that will be the backbone structure of the entire movement

Grieg Holberg Suite Analysis mov1 ex1

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Gianmaria Griglio is an intelligent, exceptional musician. There is no question about his conducting abilities: he has exceptionally clear baton technique that allows him to articulate whatever decisions he has made about the music.

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