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Notes 59.1 (2002) 88-90

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Book Review

Edvard Grieg:
Letters to Colleagues and Friends

Edvard Grieg:
Diaries, Articles, Speeches

Edvard Grieg: Letters to Colleagues and Friends. Selected and edited by Finn Benestad. Translated by William H. Halverson. Columbus, Ohio: Peer Gynt Press, 2000. [xvi, 726 p. ISBN 0-9645238-2-5. $60.] Illustrations, indexes.
Edvard Grieg: Diaries, Articles, Speeches. Edited and translated by Finn Benestad and William H. Halverson. Columbus, Ohio: Peer Gynt Press, 2001. [xvi, 455 p. ISBN 0-9645238-3-3. $40.] Illustrations, bibliography, indexes.

In the early 1960s, a small group of scholars from Norway and Denmark formed the Edvard Grieg Committee with the purpose of producing a scholarly edition of Grieg's works. C. F. Peters published this complete edition from 1977 to 1995 (Samlede verker [Frankfurt: C. F. Peters, 1977-95]). The task remaining was to collect and translate into more commonly spoken languages the composer's most important literary works: his correspondence, diaries, articles, and speeches. This has now been accomplished through a collaboration between the distinguished [End Page 88] Grieg scholar Finn Benestad and William Halverson, who specializes in the translation of materials dealing with Norwegian music. Benestad provided the historical research and editorial introductions; Halverson, the translation and literary form of these books. The results could not have been stronger; indeed, these two volumes may be considered the culmination of the Grieg edition.

Grieg was a skillful and prolific writer. The most significant collection of his manuscripts, music, books and letters reside in the public library in Bergen, Norway, and these materials served as the primary sources for these two books. More than three thousand of Grieg's letters have been published, either in their original languages (Norwegian, German, English, or French), or in translation. The Bergen library has only several hundred of these letters (though they have more than five thousand letters addressed to the composer). The rest of the composer's letters lie scattered among libraries, archives, and private collections throughout the world. The editors have gone to great lengths to gather, organize, and present these documents in a form that is valuable for us to study.

The Letters to Colleagues and Friends gathers 503 letters from Grieg to 110 correspondents plus ten letters to Grieg from Henrik Ibsen, Johannes Brahms, and Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Many of these letters were chosen for translation from the sixteen hundred letters in Benestad's 1998 collection Edvard Grieg: Brev i utvalg 1862- 1907 (Oslo: Aschehoug, 1998). The letters relate to either people or events of historical significance, or to the composer's music, character, values, and circumstances. Some are of only general interest. All the letters appear here in English translation for the first time except, of course, those the composer actually wrote in English.

The book arranges the letters alphabetically by the surname of each recipient. Multiple letters to a single recipient are arranged chronologically. The editors have written a brief introduction for each recipient, providing the necessary context for the letters that follow. The letters themselves have numerous footnotes providing vital clarification of information. The detailed scholarly work of the editors has resulted in a volume that is interesting, informative, and enjoyable to read.

The volume concludes with several important finding tools: a chronological listing of the letters (for those who wish to find letters written during a particular period of Grieg's life), a list of his compositions that correlates with the Samlede verker, a bibliography of the most important published editions of Grieg's letters, an index to compositions, and a general index.

Although Grieg himself was reluctant to have even excerpts of his letters published during his lifetime, the editors have used a balanced approach in making their selection. As they say, "The result is a group of letters revealing Grieg as he presumably was: an exceptionally good but admittedly imperfect man whose basic decency and integrity are abundantly evident in the composite picture that he presents of himself" (p. x).

The second volume, Diaries, Articles, Speeches, draws together all of the complete...


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