Following the first performance of Peer Gynt in Berlin in 1914, the critics gave their unanimous verdict on Grieg’s extensive music for Ibsen’s drama: unsuitable. What they really meant was ‘romanticized’. There is in fact a great discrepancy between this one-dimensional reception of the music and Ibsen’s initial intentions which entailed an attitude of caricature, parody and irony. Grieg’s remarks show that he had attempted to realize these concepts in his composition. The paper intends to reveal the tangled mesh of the various causes of miscomprehension. The greatest motivation however lies in the music itself: the problem of how to establish a secondary level to communicate the concept of irony at the time of composition in 1875.

Keywords: incidental music, Ibsen’s intentions, Grieg’s response, caricature, irony, parody