Woke up to a hot Singapore morning. I turned on the radio: Grieg’s Wedding Day at Troldhaugen. Sat down to listen even though I was about to dash off to the office and instantly I’m uplifted. Funny how music that was written for a specific occasion can bring such delight even when listened to on its own. I can’t remember exactly when I first heard this gorgeous piece, probably in my late teens.
Little did I know many years later – this June – I would visit Troldhaugen itself!
Edvard Grieg named his home Troldhaugen which means “trolls’ hills”. It sits by a picturesque lake, in scenic Bergen. The house is now conserved as a museum: the composer is the pride of Norwegian classical music. He had a very successful career during his life time – some say owing to his Scottish roots, others say having a shrewd publisher helped. He shot to fame at the age of 25 with the Piano Concerto in A minor. Wedding Day at Troldhaugen was written much later, and forms part of a set for piano called Lyric Pieces. Actually that whole set is a goldmine of elegant yet homely music.
Here in this little hut, a bit away from the main house, is where Grieg went to work in peace and quiet. The writing desk looks out to a Norwegian fjord. I am a firm believer that space – especially physical space – is needed for creativity to flourish, for the soul to be nourished.
What does Norwegian music of a peasant folk style have anything in common with an Asian who lives in this corner of the world all her life? On the surface, very little. But the music is innately intimate and unassuming. It feels like music that one may have known for a very long time.