Most Western countries have their “national composer”. The Scandinavian countries are no exception. Danes have Christian Lundby, Sweden has Hugo Alfvén and Norway, obviously Edvard Grieg. People around the world love the music of Stephen Foster, called the father of American music. With respect to all the great composers, not mentioned here, we’re focusing on Edvard Grieg in this short article because his beloved Norwegian songs now, for the first time, has been recorded with English lyrics. Learn more about Norway’s world-famous composer – now with lyrics in English
The Edvard Grieg Society of Minnesota is behind the first professional recording of songs by Edvard Grieg, sung in English. The songs were recorded at the Landmark Center in Saint Paul in the summer of 2020 by the Norwegian-American soprano Melissa Holm Johansen and American pianist Stephen Swanson. The new English translations have been made by the celebrated Grieg scholar, Dr. William H. Halvorsen.
The Edvard Grieg Society of Minnesota (EGSMN) was founded in 2005 to promote the study and performance of Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg and his Nordic counterparts. Grieg-scholar William Halvorsen has translated the nearly 200 songs Grieg composed into English.
Grieg aspired to reach an international audience and realized that to achieve this, he needed to get his Norwegian song texts translated into other languages. So, the songs have been translated earlier, in 1875 into German. Grieg was fluent in German and was able to work with German translators until they achieved a result that was acceptable to him. These translations have been the source for translations into other languages. Halvorsen’s translations, however, are a result of his roots to the Norwegian language and are translated from the original Norwegian lyrics.
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“I think it’s very important that someone who could have easily sung it in Norwegian chose to sing it in English in order to reach a new audience,” said Dr. Halverson, who was first commissioned to translate the lyrics way back in 1988.
Edvard Grieg introduced the sound of the Nordics to the rest of the world. Norway House and EGSMN exist to bolster a continued appreciation for Norwegian and Nordic music.
“Edvard Grieg: Songs From the Heart” features 25 Grieg songs recorded in English for the first time. You can order the CD here.
Norway’s World-Famous Composer – Now With Lyrics in English, written by Tor Kjolberg
Feature image (on top): Norwegian-American soprano Melissa Holm Johansen and American pianist Stephen Swanson. Photo: EGSMN