In A Minute! (...Or Two): Ep. #77

Ep.  #77 Featuring Joanne Pearce-Martin and Gavin Martin
"In The Hall of The Mountain King"

Grieg’s Peer Gynt, Op. 23 was composed as incidental music for Henrik Ibsen’s play of the same name. After the play’s premiere, Grieg’s music was so popular that it was split into two orchestral suites, the first of which employs “In the Hall of the Mountain King” as its finale. Grieg and other composers of the era often delved into literature for inspiration. Although he preceded the Romantic Era, Shakespeare was one of the most popular playwrights to be set to music. Indeed, the works of Shakespeare have been muses for composers of every century.

Peer Gynt is classified as “program music” because it intentionally focuses on telling a story. Grieg’s “In the Hall of the Mountain King” is a perfect example of “program music”. For instance, to evoke Gynt’s tiptoeing through the cave so as not to be discovered by the trolls, Grieg asks the strings to play pianissimo and pizzicato rather than employ their bows. As the piece moves forward, the entire orchestra arrives at their maximum volume and the speed increases dramatically embodying the chase as it grows ever more frenzied.

We hear these techniques masterfully executed on the piano in an arrangement for four hands, expertly played and spookily reimagined by Joanne Pearce-Martin and Gavin Martin.