I spent my final full day abroad in the beautiful town of Bergen. The day was mostly devoted to Bergen’s most famous son, the composer Edvard Grieg.
Though his heritage was Scottish (“Grieg” was originally MacGregor a few steps back up the famlily tree), by the time young Edvard came along, the family was resolutely Norwegian. I have always loved Grieg’s work, particularly his collaboration with Norway’s most famous playwright, Henrik Ibsen: Peer Gynt. I fell in love with the music as a kid and I love it to this day.
Even if you had no clue that Grieg was associated with Bergen, you could hardly miss it when come here, as you seem to trip over statues to the great man everywhere you go. Here’s just two of them:
By the way, the statue is pretty much life sized. He was a hobbit. This statue is just outside the Grieg Hall, which is the premiere classical music venue in the city. Seen from above, you can see that it’s shaped like a piano!
And then there’s this one:
The nice Swedish couple that took the first photo for me told me about a terrific tour they had just taken to the old Grieg summer house. I signed up for it at the nifty visitor’s center down on the wharf.
The tour started with a lovely bus drive out of the city, during which we learned about Grieg and his life with his wife Nina. The only thing marring the trip was the clueless American mom who thought it was a good idea to bring an infant on a tour of Edvard Grieg’s home. Was her precocious little tyke inordinately interested in Norwegian composers? If so, then why was it so unhappy? I tried to rise above the wretched noises emanating from its cryhole and concentrated on the tourguide’s words.
The Grieg Center, located on a small bluff over the fjord just a few miles outside of town, consists of three buildings: A museum, a concert hall, and the old summer house.
The house is not a mansion, but a pleasant and rustic retreat from the city:
Of course, the grounds have yet another statue of Mr. Grieg:
The highlight of the day — indeed, one of the highlights of the trip — was a mini lunchtime piano recital of Grieg’s music in this lovely, turf-covered concert hall:
The performer was the very handsome and talented Håvard Gimse. It was a “teaching” recital, so we also learned a lot about Grieg’s music between pieces. I did not get a photo of him, but here’s one for your reference:
At first I was worried, because Ms. Entitled American Parent Person fulfilled my darkest fears and brought her INFANT INTO THE CONCERT. Who does that? Luckily, my heroic tourguide nipped that shit in the bud within two minutes, and we adults were left free to enjoy the music.
Once the horrible baby was banished, I had a few minutes of near perfect happiness. Enjoying a live concert of beautiful music, in this lovely hall, presented by such a dashing performer, with the gorgeous sun-dappled fjord in the background, felt like a perfect way to end my Scandinavian journey.
Even more perfect: The concert hall’s name is Troldsalen, which means, of course Troll Hall. The summer villa is named Troldhaugen, or Troll Mound. (LOVE.)
Edvard and Nina even have a troll grave, buried into the side of a hill:
After the concert, which I didn’t want to end, I personally thanked our tourguide. “Much better for you to handle it than for me to…. which I would have,” I told him. Then it was back to town and packing for home! I was tired, chilly and ready to return to loud and sunny Los Angeles.
Next: Obligatory Deep Thoughts on the Way Home!