Peer Gynt Suite

Text Correction

The introduction to this edition has text that became displaced from one paragraph to another. The sections titled Anitra’s Dance and In the Hall of the Mountain King should read as follows:

 Anitra’s Dance          

 “A delicate little dance that I hope will sound lovely and beautiful. I would be grateful if you would treat this piece with special affection.” Edvard Grieg

“Anitra’s Dance” was the most difficult movement of the Peer Gynt Suite to transcribe. The first question comes from the opening phrase with its characteristic trill. (In the score I have marked the first one, in measure 8 with a trill sign in parentheses.) This figure is repeated many times in the piece. The puzzle is that some of these trills can be easily executed on the guitar, but others are very much harder. Compounding the problem is the tempo, which must be brisk. Depending on skill level, some players may wish to sprinkle trills in some of these places, or execute a complete turn. Certainly some ornament is needed. The compromise that I have chosen is to not notate the trills but to include the last part of the turn which completes them. This gives a slight ornamentation without unduly adding to the difficulty or detracting from the even flow of the dance.

The phrase starting in measure 15 (and transposed starting in measure 82) is staccato in the original. However, fingering it using the open B string (and later the E string) makes a deliciously guitaristic, cross-string effect that I find very convincing.

The textures of Grieg’s music are almost exclusively accompanied melodies, but occasionally he employs contrapuntal passages such as the imitation starting in measure 56.


In the Hall of the Mountain King

“I have also written something for the scene in the hall of the Mountain King - something that I literally cannot stand to listen to because it absolutely reeks of cow pies, exaggerated Norwegian provincialism, and trollish self-importance!”  Edvard Grieg

The final movement is large, brash and dramatic. As in Morning Mood variety is found through orchestration. In the guitar transcription this is preserved by varying right-hand placement of course, but also through articulation and tessitura. The overall structure of the piece is a gradual intensification through all of the variables: tempo, loudness, fullness of the texture articulation, and pitch. (There are obvious and interesting similarities to Maurice Ravel’s Bolero although that music was written more than half a century later!) For the player this prescribes  very careful pacing of all of these variables from the start.

The downward slide in measure 17 is not on one string but, rather, starts on the third string and ends with open fourth string.

The artificial harmonics starting in measure 38 are not as difficult as they appear, or as they will sound in performance. They are all in the first position and the left-hand fingering is exactly the same as in the immediately preceding phrase. 

The phrase starting in measure 42 is another impressive, bravura challenge. Three beats in the bass are played against two in the treble. I suggest learning this very slowly,  perhaps one-quarter speed, by using the triplets as the basic pulse and inserting the treble notes as they occur. For instance, in measure 42, the note E in the melody falls exactly half-way between the F sharp and the A in the bass. After the phrase is well established and comfortable to play, attention can be shifted to the continuity of the top line.

Starting in measure 58 there are some unusual left-hand fingerings including partial, interior barrés that will help in this difficult section.

The figure in measure 86 was an octave tremolo in the original. The arpeggio I have chosen gives more volume and is easier to play. Some players may even want to use a rasqueado here.