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Norwegian Military Music and Edvard Grieg – an approach

Ina Rupprecht received her Bachelor of Arts in musicology and Scandinavian Studies with a final paper on The Hardangerfiddel as Norwegian National Symbol: Johan Halvorsen’s “Fossegrimen” 1905 in 2012, and her Master of Arts in musicology with a final paper on The Nation’s first Artist. Gerhard Schjelderup’s importance for Grieg biographies in Norway and Germany (1903–1943) in 2017, at Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster. At the moment, she is part of the German research project “Nordic music politics. The German Dominance of Music in Norway 1930–1945”, led by Prof. Dr. Michael Custodis at Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster, and is researching German Musicians in Norway between 1930 and 1945.

Since both Edvard Grieg’s 175th birthday and Norwegian military music’s 200th anniversary are celebrated in 2018, a first look at compositions by Grieg for military music was in order. As one of Norway’s most popular and beloved composers, his works made it into the different repertoires, despite not being known for military compositions; instead his popular pieces were adapted. Military music bands in Halden, Oslo, Kristiansand, Bergen, Trondheim and Harstad played arrangements of his compositions. Today the archive inventory catalogues at the Forsvarsmuseum in Oslo present a wide range of Grieg arrangements from different decades and Norwegian military music bands. Arrangements of Grieg’s Landkjending, Sigurd Jorsalfar, Olav Trygvason, the F-dur Sonate or Bergliot are natural parts of the Norwegian military music’s repertoire. Several conductors, as for example Ole Olsen and Oscar Borg, promoted Norwegian compositions as a way to strengthen Norwegian national identity. The questions the archive catalogues are to provide information about are, which bands played what, what are the similarities or differences, and perhaps even when were the compositions included into the respective repertoires, and whether they have a national agenda.

Keywords: Edvard Grieg, Norwegian military music, repertoire, inventory of arrangements

In 2018, both Norwegian military music and the composer Edvard Grieg are being celebrated. This is an occasion that presents a great opportunity for taking a look at possible connections between the composer and Norwegian military music.

Development of Norwegian military music

Norwegian military music celebrates its 200-year anniversary this year. However, even before that official founding year of 1818, music ensembles within the Norwegian armed forces existed. Tambourinists were installed at Norwegian forts in 1627 and they were paired with six wind instruments. With new army regulations in 1817–18, five military bands were instituted, one for every brigade. Halden, Oslo, Kristiansand, Bergen and Trondheim got their own music bands, each consisting of one drummer, six wind instrumentalists and twelve janissary players. The first instructors were probably recruited from local town musicians, but in subsequent years, foreigners were employed as instructors, which brought a qualitative upswing, something that could also be seen in Swedish and English military music. The military band in Halden, 1. Brigades Musikkorps, was from 1850 onwards led by the German Friedrich Anton Reissiger, who had been conductor at Christiania Theater previously. From 1881 to 1918, Oscar Borg took over. In Oslo, the Italian Paolo Agostino Sperati took on as conductor of the 2. Brigades Musikkorps in 1854 and was succeeded by Ole Olsen in 1884, who also was appointed superintendent for all military music in Norway in 1899, a position he held until 1920.

The 3. Brigades Musikkorps Kristiansand was the only military band at that time that was not conducted by a foreigner. Joh. C. Christensen led the military band until in 1904 Georg Andersen took over, until 1922. Bergen’s military band, 4. Brigades Musikkorps, was led by the Swedish conductor Johs. Dente from 1844 onward, who was superseded by Andreas Rasmussen Sevald in 1862, who in turn was followed by Adolf Hansen in 1892 until 1911. The 5. Brigades Musikkorps in Trondheim was led by F. E. Arnstädt, who led from 1844 until he was replaced by Mathias Olsen Alstad in 1865, who in turn was superseded by Knut Marcus Hansen Glomsås, 1887–1928. A sixth military band was introduced in 1911 in Harstad for the sixth brigade that was stationed there. It was conducted by Peter Jøssvold until 1918.

The number of musicians who played in the band could vary due to changing numbers of music students until in 1866 the instrumentation of the military bands was newly defined in the Organisation af den norske Armeens Fodfolk. There it was specified that the 2. Brigades Musikkorps (Oslo) should consist of one leading music sergeant, nine music sergeants and nine music privates. The other military bands in Halden, Kristiansand, Bergen and Trondheim were appointed with seven music sergeants and eight music privates. Additionally, every military band had music students. The instrumentation could vary little from band to band but all in all it did not change much until World War Two. Usually the instrumentation of a band was a flute in E flat, a piccolo in D flat, one clarinet in E flat and three in B flat, one cornet in E flat and one in B, two trumpets in E flat, F or B, three horns in E flat or F, three tenor horn in B and two tubas, and last but not least percussion. Most of the parts were played by one musician each, whereas the clarinet parts often were doubled. Oslo’s military band had always been the largest and under Ole Olsen’s leadership it was further enlarged by oboes and bassoons, which often were doubled, as well as the trumpets. In 1916, divisions replaced the brigades, and accordingly the brigade bands became division bands.

The repertoire from 1850 to 1870 consisted mostly of works from foreign composers, and opera music was especially very popular. Even the dancing and march music was dominated by foreign composers but for example Friedrich August Reissiger wrote pieces for military music based on Norwegian folk music material. The repertoire changed towards a more national tone, something that is closely related to the Norwegian conductors who took over the military band leadership from 1880 onward. Through them and their successors, the repertoire was modernized with their own compositions and arrangements, including arrangements of Norwegian music, and from purchasing printed scores from foreign, mostly German, music publishers. Even today, a great amount of this sheet music is still used.1 Grieg’s works acquired high appreciation among military musicians, both in Norway and Germany.2

For Norwegian society, Military music had great importance in times when there was no other public music life available. At the military music schools, which were the only public institutions at which music could be studied, whenever an education in Germany or France was not possible, the musicians were not limited to military music. They were often the only professionally educated musicians in garrison towns. They contributed to nearly every musical aspect of society, as composers (for example Ole Olsen, Johan Svendsen and Johan Halvorsen), as church musicians and organists, as theatre musicians (where they provided the brass and wind sections), and of course as music teachers. And, military bands often performed contemporary poplar music at their frequent public concerts,3 an integral contribution to the spreading and popularization of music4 in areas without ample public cultural life.

The original catalogues

Looking into the military music archive5 at the Forsvarsmuseum in Oslo, one finds a broad repertoire of music, including pieces from Edvard Grieg, whose 175th birthday is celebrated in 2018.

The military music archive contains music material from four military bands: I Halden, II Oslo, III Kristiansand and IV Bergen. Music material from Trondheim and Harstad is not stored there. To take a first look at the music, one can start by reading through the catalogue of each military band. Then, to see what really can be found in the archive, one has to look through the card catalogue, which contains all music present today. The catalogues of the military bands present an overview over the note material that was available and used at the time the catalogues were written.

For the 1. Brigades/Divisjons Musikkorps in Halden, a catalogue with all material up to 1940 exists and some annotations were made probably around 1946–47. The catalogue can be read in two ways: one has the pieces catalogued by the composer’s name and the others by title and genre. The genres dividing the catalogue are march, overture, fantasy/pastiche, rhapsody/suite/symphony, character piece, schlager/dances, songs/chorals, and theory books/music schools. Most of the music is labelled with the related place in the original archive. Even with this triple division of the music as well as title and composer of the work, the catalogue provides no clues to when the individual music pieces were included into the band’s repertoire, who wrote the arrangements, which music is an arrangement for the band and which one is a printed edition.6

The 2. Brigades/Divisjons Musikkorps catalogue in Kristiania/Oslo7 contains an overview of the music that was accessible around 1940. The catalogue was started sometime between 1935 and 1940. It organizes the material by books, and roughly by genre, using similar classifications to the Halden catalogue. A lot of the repertoire in the catalogue is still in use today, whereas some is replaced by new arrangements. However, this catalogue too presents no information on the arranger or when the piece was arranged or included in the repertoire.8

The catalogue from Kristiansandske Brigades Musikkorps/3. Brigades/Divisjons Musikkorps differs from the others. While they were organized by composer, genre or books, this catalogue is a continuing inventory list from 1897 until 1919. For 1897, about 2,400 compositions and arrangements are listed in the inventory, and by 1919 the military band had doubled its repertoire. The new purchases are listed for every accounting year and organized by serial numbers, accumulative books and serial numbers within each book. Compositions in printed books were also given serial numbers, but the books themselves were not always counted. These printed books are all titled Marsch-Hefte some with the annotation Oertel, which refers to the German military musician and publisher Carl Louis Oertel, whose publishing house became known for its broad repertoire of arrangements for military bands.9 Aside from the sheet music organized in books, some are labelled lose Blätter which means that they were not bound with the a book. For most works the complete title and name of the composer are given, nevertheless, for the first 200 or so compositions, the composer’s name or a title that could identify the composer are lacking. Even though the inventory gives a good impression on when the arrangements or compositions entered the repertoire of Kristiansand’s military band, it is not made clear who arranged the compositions and how they are instrumented. In addition to the entries of new purchases, several annotations are made. On the first page is noted that the inventory is incomplete, and for several of the accumulative books it is annotated that they are no longer part of the archive, and at the end of the book, one can find an endnote about the provenance of the inventory from 1943.10

Illustration 1:

A page from the 3. Brigades Musikkorps notekatalog. Forsvarsmuseet Notearkiv.

The catalogue from Bergen was not available for this article, but the card catalogue fills the gaps in the repertoire.

With the knowledge of the original catalogues that were generated along the growing repertoires, a look into today’s card catalogue shows what is really in the archive today, because those original catalogues and the actual material that is deposited at the Forsvarsmuseum music archive in Oslo can differ greatly. Forsvarsmuseum’s archive is bigger than what the catalogues show, due to the catalogues reflecting the situation at the time they were set up. But there are holes in some of the archives because of sheet music no longer existing or still being in use by today’s military bands.11

Today’s card catalogue

The card catalogue was established by the Forsvarsmusem’s music archive and represents the actual archive material. It is organized by military band, and within by part of book collections, scores, loose sheets, and the box number it can be found in. On the card for each score , it is also noted in which book the parts are to be found. Furthermore, the scores provide information on the instrumentation. The list for the part books also includes information about the arranger, if available, how the part books of one set differ, meaning which pieces are missing and which are extra in some books. Those part books are grouped in several “Litra” collections (similar to the division by genre in the original catalogues), and the card catalogue provides both instrumentation, that is, a list of the part books found in the collection, and reference to the score books.12 Aside from this relatively new and complete card catalogue, there exists an older version.

The following table shows a list of the arrangements of Grieg compositions to be found in the catalogues and card catalogues. The arrangements from the original catalogues are also contained in the card catalogue. The names and dates refer to the arrangers and the time the arrangements were made. The year dates in brackets in the Kristiansand repertoire refer to the years given in the original catalogue and show when each piece was taken up. Those unassigned titles were found in the old card catalogue, without a clear reference to the military band, but are no longer to be found in the current card catalogue.

Table 1.
An den FrühlingII
AlbumbladIII (1908/09)
Ave Maris StellaII
Brudefølget drager forbiIIIIII
Dance, Caprice
Den BjergtagneIIIV Adolf Hansen 27.8.1896
Den norske SjømandIV
Den store hvite flokkII
Du herre som er sterk og stor
Epilog. Farvel til TvindehougenI
F-dur sonaten 2dre sats op.8 I Oscar BorgIIIII (1911/12)IV P.O. Jøssvold 21.3.1911 (Harstad)
FolkeviseIII (1908/09)
Foran sydens klosterIII (1910/11)
Fra Monte PincioIIIV
FædrelandssangIII (1908/09)
Gammelnorsk romanse
HjertesaarIIIIIIV Adolf Hansen 23.10.1901
Hochzeitstag auf Troldhaugen I Th. Grawert (Verlag L. Oertel)IIIII (1913/14)
I Hjemmet
I høstII
Ich liebe dichII
Im Balladenton
LandkjendingI Oscar BorgIIIII Georg Andersen 7.1905 (also in the Bergen repertoire)IV Adolf Hansen 19.8.1896
Lyriske Stykker. Forbi
Lyriske Stykker. Sommeraften
Norsk III (1908/09)
Norsk Dans op. 3 no. 1–4II except no. 3III (1906/07)Georg Andersen 23.9.1909IV only no. 4
Peer Gynt. Arabisk dans. II
Peer Gynt. Solveigs sang.I Oscar Borg IIIII (1904/05)
Peer Gynt Suite No. 1IIIII (1897)IV J. Wolsdal
Peer Gynt Suite No. 2I Adolf Hansen 1.3.1909IIIIIIV Adolf Hansen
PrinsessenI Oscar Borg 22.6.1900II
Reiseminder. Fra Fjell og Fjord I
Scene og Tempeldans. Olav TrygvasonII
Sigurd Jorsalfar. Borghilds drømIII (1904/05) Georg Andersen
Sigurd Jorsalfar. HyldingsmarschIIIII (1904/05) Georg AndersenIV
Sigurd Jorsalfar. IntermezzoI Oscar BorgIIIII Adolf Hansen
Sigurd Jorsalfar. KongekvadetIIIII (1904/05) Georg Andersen
Sigurd Jorsalfar. KvadIV 2 different instrumentations
Sigurd Jorsalfar. NorrønakvadIIIIII (1904/05) Georg Andersen
Sigurd Jorsalfar. Ved MandjevningenIIIII (1904/05) Georg AndersenIV
Symphony C moll
Symfonisk Dans No 1II
Sørgemarsch over Rikard NordraakIV
The last spring
Vandring i SkogenI Oscar BorgII
ValsIII (1908/09)
Ved en ung hustrus båre
Ved Rondane
VårenIIIII (1906/07)IV
VægtersangIII (1908/09)
Vær hilst i damer (for sang)

From the above table it is obvious that Edvard Grieg’s works are represented in each of the four repertoires but not to the same extent. As already mentioned, with Norwegian conductors there came a more national focus into military music. In 1885, Ole Olsen wrote Edvard Grieg, a correspondence that began in the 1870s and lasted until 1911,13 among other things about his new position as leader of the 2. Brigades Musikkorps in Oslo. Olsen, born in Hammerfest in 1850, had studied in northern Norway and Leipzig, and started his career as piano and theory teacher as well as accompanist and conductor in the late 1870s. Before his post as leader of Oslo’s military band, and later inspector of all Norwegian military music, he was successful as Johan Svendsen’s successor at Musikforeningen, recommended by no other than Edvard Grieg, with many Norwegian premieres of contemporary compositions and as conductor of the prestigious Haandverksangforeningen. Through his marriage to Marie E. Hals, the daughter of piano manufacturer Karl Hals, he also came to engage with all the important contemporary artists, and was an eager participant in culture and music debates. His own compositions were quite successful, some of them were even published abroad, though he often composed on order. As a military music instructor he fought not only for a greater Norwegian contingent in the repertoire, but also against repeated attempts to downsize or even abolish military bands. As a composer, he struggled with the efforts of being recognized on the same level as Grieg and Svendsen.14 In his letter to Grieg, he writes that he is reintegrating oboes and bassoons, after Paolo Sperati had excluded them from the military band. Furthermore, he writes that “Skulde du ikke ved Leilighed kunde have Lyst til at skrive et eller andet for militærmusiken. Har forresten tænkt meg at instrumentere noget af din Musik til Sigurd Jorsalfar, – vil da sige hvis du ikke har noget derimod.”15 So, Ole Olsen was hoping for a composition for military band from Grieg and wanted to arrange parts of Sigurd Jorsalfar himself, probably as part of his programme to bring more Norwegian and national compositions into the repertoire of military bands. Interestingly, the 2. Brigade Musikkorps in Oslo has, aside from Borghilds drøm, all parts of the Sigurd Jorsalfar suite, but if it really was Ole Olsen who arranged it for the military band, it is not clear, due to a lack of date or signature. The 1. Brigades Musikkorps played in 1888 an arrangement of Intermezzo from Sigurd Jorsalfar at the military music festival in Copenhagen,16 and in 1893 this was played at one of the concerts Ole Olsen led.17 In Bergen’s repertoire are two different versions of the Kvad from Sigurd Jorsalfar, so it seems to have been rather popular. This was something that Edvard Grieg was not entirely happy about. In 1892, he wrote his publisher Dr. Abraham that “das erste “Kvad” (altnordische Bezeichnung für “Weise” oder “Lied”) ist hier in Bergen z.B. so schauderhaft populair, dass es, seitdem es in Gartenkoncerten aufgeführt wurde, sogar von Strassenjungen gesungen wird. […] Hier in meiner Vaterstadt habe ich mehr als einmal meinen Weg ändern müssen, um diese Strophen, die mit entsetzlicher Rohheit gebrüllt werden, nicht zu hören.”18

The nonexistence of dated and signed sheet music from the Oslo military band is something that stands out from the other repertoires, where at least a few arrangements are dated and/or signed. Still, Oslo had the biggest Grieg repertoire with thirty-one arrangements, a fact that relates to Oslo being the Norwegian capital and to Ole Olsen’s intentions as conductor, as mentioned above. In contrast to Oslo, the Grieg repertoire in Halden is the smallest of the four military bands, with only twelve arrangements. Nevertheless, since eight of those arrangements are signed, assumptions on a timeframe for their origin are possible. Most of them were signed by Oscar Borg, who was the conductor from 1881 until 1918, so somewhere in-between, those arrangements were made. The arrangement of Prinsessen is dated 22 June 1900, which shows that Oscar Borg did not do all the arrangements, when he took over the 1. Brigades Musikkorps in Halden, but added them over time. The arrangement of Peer Gynt suite no. 2 was probably transferred to Halden because it is signed by Adolf Hansen on 1 March 1909, a time when he led the 4. Brigades Musikkorps in Bergen. Since Bergen has an undated arrangement of Peer Gynt suite no. 2 in its catalogue, one can assume that the one in the Bergen repertoire also originated around 1909.

For Bergen, only thirteen Grieg arrangements were available, something that might seem a little off, since Bergen was Grieg’s birthplace and hometown. Nevertheless, some of the arrangements are dated and signed by Adolf Hansen. The first one dated is Landkjending from 19 August 1896, closely followed by Den Bjergtagne on 27 August 1896. The third arrangement Hansen dated is from October 1901, so the timespan in which he produced these three arrangements is rather short, given the fact that he led the 4. Brigades Musikkorps from 1892 until 1911. It was also Adolf Hansen who composed and conducted the Serenade at Edvard and Nina Grieg’s silver wedding anniversary in 1892, something that Grieg was deeply moved by.19 In 1911, an arrangement of the violin sonata in F Major, opus 8, second movement, was included in the Bergen repertoire, arranged by P. Jøssvold, who conducted the 6. Brigades Musikkorps in Halden, which had been installed the same year. Next to his signature, he even wrote “Harstad” as place of origin. On Ole Olsen’s second music inspection in Bergen, he was quite impressed by Hansen’s arrangement of Olav Trygvason and Peer Gynt suite no. 1 as part of the programme.20 Even though Bergen’s repertoire of Grieg arrangements is rather small, it sticks out because it is the only military band that had a piece originally arranged by Grieg for military band in its catalogue: the Sørgemarsch over Rikard Nordraak. The Sørgemarsch underwent several transformations until Grieg arranged it for Norwegian military band and it took even longer until his publisher in Leipzig published it in 1899. Grieg composed a first version of the Sørgemarsch in 1866 for piano, and published it through his Danish publisher Horneman in Copenhagen. In 1867, Grieg rearranged the composition for wind ensemble, and he revised it again in 1878. It took until 1892 before he arranged the composition for Norwegian military music.21 Today, the original Grieg arrangement has been taken out of the military music archive in Oslo and returned to the Grieg collection at Bergen public library. In the Grieg collection, one can find two arrangements of the composition for military music. One consists of score and parts. It is undated, has many corrections, and was presented to the Grieg collection by Nina Grieg in 1919. On the score’s front page is a pencil note from Grieg, saying that he gave the only correct score to musical director Sevald in Bergen, and that the parts must be revised afterwards.22 Even though this manuscript is undated, one can assume that this exchange with Sevald happened sometime between 1866 and 1892, since Sevald led the 4. Brigades Musikkorps in Bergen from 1862 till 1892. Perhaps the manuscript is even the first arranged version for wind instruments from 1867, but that is for other research to determine. The other manuscript of the Sørgemarsch is dated September 1892, the same year that Rikard Nordraak’s fiftieth birthday was celebrated, and it is dedicated to musical director Adolf Hansen. He was the conductor of Bergen’s military band from 1892 to 1911. The manuscript was given to the Grieg collection in 1962 by conductor Henry Gloppen of the 4. Divisjons Musikkorps23 for the exhibition of the Grieg collection at Bergen public library.24 As to Grieg’s ambitions to compose for military music, one can find a hint about that in the correspondence between Edvard Grieg and his publisher C.F. Peters in Leipzig. C.F. Peters was, for most of his life, Grieg’s main publisher, and Grieg was personally connected to both Dr. Max Abraham and Henri Hinrichsen, the heads of C.F. Peters, through a deep friendship. In 1890, Grieg wrote his publisher and friend Max Abraham, “ist das Arrangement der Norweg. Tänze wirklich gut, würde das Stück für die Militairmusiken im Norden gewiss gut sein.“25 Basically, Grieg was considering an arrangement of Norske Danser for military music in “the north”. Whether he meant Norway or Scandinavia in general is not clear, but reading it as Norway is not a long shot. Abraham’s answering letter did not support Grieg’s idea, although he writes of German military music and not northern.26 Even harsher was the verdict of Henri Hinrichsen: In 1904 he wrote Grieg asking for revisions by summer, whereas “[…] ich von einem Arrangement für Militärmusik von irgendwelchen Kompositionen & insbesondere von dem „Hochzeitstag auf Troldhaugen“ abraten kann. Das ist kein Zweig, mit dem die Edition Lorbeeren erringen kann & daß er auch unlukrativ ist, hat die Bearbeitung der Peer-Gynt Suite I erwiesen. Ich glaube, wir stehen auf dem gleichen Standpunkt; lieber keine Compositionen als Bearbeitungen, von denen ich persönlich ein abgesagter Feind bin.“27 Hinrichsen talked Grieg out of compositions or arrangements for military music, arguing the financial disadvantages and the lack of reputation therefrom for the publisher. Both of these were arguments that mainly concerned Hinrichsen as publisher and not Grieg himself. So the lack of genuine compositions for military bands is to blame on Peters being opposed to it because of its non-prestigious outcome for the publisher. Since Grieg took up the topic both in 1880 and over twenty years later (1904), military music must have been something that he was interested in, even though it does not show in his letters. He made one other composition for military bands, the Kantaten ved afsløring af W.F.K. Christies statue 17. mai 1868,28 but it was never published and does not show in any of these military bands’ repertoires. The various arrangements of Grieg’s compositions by the different conductors, and only a few printed arrangements in the repertoires, is due to the slightly differing instrumentations available and the prestige sentiment of the conductors, who wanted to show off their abilities as arrangers.29

As the table above shows, a great variety of Grieg’s compositions were arranged for military band. Only four of them are to be found in all four military bands: Sonate for fiolin og klaver F-dur op. 8, 2dre sats, Landkjending, Peer Gynt suite no. 2 and Solveigs sang. Those, as well as the others, were arrangements of already extremely popular compositions by Grieg. Taking the second movement of the violin sonata as an example, one can ascertain that it is one of his most frequently played compositions, both in his time and today. The second movement, which made it into the military music repertoire, became independent early on. It includes folk musical elements with effects of Hardanger fiddle and the Norwegian springer dance,30 traits that fall right into the endeavors for a more national repertoire. The following table shows the different instrumentations of the violin sonata in the four military bands. As one can see from the following table, Oslo had the biggest military band, with extra brass instruments and an oboe. The instrumentation of the 3. Brigades Musikkorps part books and the corresponding score differ for some unknown reason, while the scores from Kristiansand and Bergen have identical instrumentation. Whether Kristiansand too has the arrangement by Jøssvold needs to be further determined, but since they both originated in 1911 is it a slight possibility.

Table 2.
Part books I/Litra G Part books II/Litra L Part books III/Litra 43-grøn
ConductorConductor I-IIConductor
Piccolo D flatPiccolo
Flute E flatFluteFlute C
Oboe I-II
Solo ClarinetSolo Clarinet, Clarinet E flatClarinet E flat
Clarinets I-III B flatClarinet I-IIIClarinet I-II B flat (part book Clarinet I missing)
Cornet I-II B flatCornet I-IICornet I-II B flat
Horn I-III Horn I-IVHorn I E flatHorn II-III E flat/F
Trumpet I-IITrumpet I-II, Trumpet III-IV E flatTrumpet I-II E flat/B flat
Tenor I-IIITenor I-II
Trombone I-IIITenortrombone I-II B flat
Bass I-IITuba I-IIIBass I-II
snare drum, bass drumSnare drum, bass drumDrums
III/Partitur (belongs to part book III/Litra 43) IV/Partitur Sevald
Flute D flatFlute D flat
Clarinet E flatClarinet E flat
Clarinet I-III B flatClarinet I-III B flat
Cornet I-II B flatCornet I-II B flat
Trumpet I-II FTrumpet I-II F
Horn I-III FHorn I-III F
Trombone I-III B flatTrombone I-III B flat
Bass I-IIBass

In 1911, Edvard Grieg was honored by Norwegian military music. Ole Olsen informed Nina Grieg that she will “under 4de (Bergenske Brigade) finde Bergliotmotivet som Brigadens Kjendigssignal.”31

Illustration 2:

Haerens kjendingssignaler 1911. The identifying signal of Bergen's military band. Bergliotmotivet.

The Bergliotmotivet consists of the first four bars, the horn motif, of Grieg’s melodrama Bergliot, opus 42. A motive that appears on several occasions throughout the composition. The melodrama was composed to a text from Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson, and laid out for orchestra and declamation. It tells the story of Bergliot who has lost her husband and son in war and now wants to avenge them. The audience follows her feelings trough the loss, the desire for revenge and resignation. At the premiere in 1885, the composition was well received both by the audience and the critics.32 The choice of this motif as the identifying signal seems rather odd, considering the special character of the composition and the reason why the committee chose the beginning of Bergliot are yet to be determined, but it surely is a statement. It is both an honor of his contributions to Norwegian musical life as well as to his hometown of Bergen.

To sum up the observations, one can find that Grieg’s compositions were a consistent part of the Norwegian military band repertoire, but the full extent of its significance has yet to be determined. As can be seen based on the few dates given for the arrangements, it can be shown that his works found their way into the repertoires over a longer period, and remained there over time. Though the arrangements are of compositions from different genres, they are united by the fact that one can find some national connection to each of them. Whether this is a result of Edvard Grieg’s music being used to transport the national idea for the fostering of a national identity, or just coincidental with these works also being extremely popular in Norway and abroad, cannot be determined, but some correlation with the building and manifestation of the Norwegian nation is possible.


Finn Benestad & Hella Brock, Edvard Grieg. Briefwechsel mit dem Musikverlag C. F. Peters 1863–1907, Frankfurt/M, Leipzig, London etc. 1997.

Finn Benestad & Dag Schjelderup-Ebbe, Edvard Grieg. Mensch und Künstler, Leipzig 19931.

Egil A. Gundersen, Adolf Hansen. «– han drysset melodier ut av ermet ..» – Norges H.C. Lumbye–, Skien 2002.

Egil A. Gundersen, Oscar Borg. Norges Marsjkonge, Skien 1991.

Egil A. Gundersen, Ole Olsen. Menesket – Musikeren – Majoren, Skien 1997.

Egil A. Gundersen, “Ole Olsen”, in: Norsk biografisk leksikon, last updated 29.11.2011, https://nbl.snl.no/Ole_Olsen (last view 21.6.2018.)

John Horton, Grieg. The Master Musicians Series, London 1975.

Niels Persen, “Militærmusikken i Norge. En kort oversikt med særlig vekt på de profesjonelle musikkorps”, in: Norske musikkorps 2 ed by Eddie A. Ingskog, Oslo 1990.

Rohan Sandmo: Historikk – Forsvarets musikk. Fra falanks til cybersoldater. 2016, https://forsvaret.no/kultur/musikk/historikk (last view 13.06.18)

Wolfgang Suppan: “Art. Blasorchester, III.”, in: MGG Online, ed. by Laurenz Lütteken, Kassel, Stuttgart, New York: 2016ff., first published 1994, online published 2016, https://www.mgg-online.com/mggstable/29018.

Primary materials

Bergen offentlige Bibliotek, Grieg samlingen, Korrespondanse:

Brev, 1911 06.29, Kristiania, Nina Grieg, Tittelnr. 0215110.

Brev, 1892 04.05, Troldhaugen, til C.F.Peters Musikverlag, Tittelnr. 0383471.

Brev, 1885 01.12, Kristiania, Edvard Grieg. Tittelnr. 025101.

Bergen offentlig Bibliotek, Grieg samlingen, Komposisjoner:

Edvard Grieg: Sørgemarsch over Rikard Nordraak, Manuskript. Tittelnr. 0202236.

Sørgemarsch over Rikard Nordraak af Edvard Grieg. Op. 6 (B.). Partitur for Blaseinstrumenter. 1892. Tittelnummer 0224651.

Forsvarsmuseet Oslo, Notearkiv:

1. Brigades/Divisjons Musikkorps, katalog Notearkiv I.

2. Brigades/Divisjons Musikkorps, katalog Notearkiv II.

Kristiansandske Brigades Musikkorps/3. Brigades/Divisjons Musikkorps, katalog Notearkiv III

Notearkivets kortkatalog.

1Niels Persen: Militærmusikken i Norge. En kort oversikt med særlig vekt på de profesjonelle musikkorps. In Norske musikkorps 2 ed by Eddie A. Ingskog. Oslo 1990. pp. 49–58.
2Translation: Wolfgang Suppan: “Blasorchester, III.” in MGG Online, ed. Laurenz Lütteken, Kassel, Stuttgart, New York 2016ff, first published 1994, online published 2016. https://www.mgg-online.com/mggstable/29018.
3Rohan Sandmo: Historikk – Forsvarets musikk. Fra falanks til cybersoldater. 2016, https://forsvaret.no/kultur/musikk/historikk (last view 13.06.18).
4Wolfgang Suppan 1994.
5Many thanks to Niels Persen for his help and guidance through the archive and the information about it. The following explanations and pictures of the archive were given by Niels.
6Forsvarsmuseet. 1. Brigades/Divisjons Musikkorps, katalog Notearkiv I.
7Oslo was called Kristiania until 1924. For clarity purposes the author uses the later city name throughout the text.
8Forsvarsmuseet. 2. Brigades/Divisjons Musikkorps, katalog Notearkiv II.
9Translation: Wolfgang Suppan: “Blasorchester, III.” in MGG Online, ed. Laurenz Lütteken, Kassel, Stuttgart, New York 2016ff, first published 1994, online published 2016. https://www.mgg-online.com/mggstable/29018.
10Forsvarsmuseet. Kristiansandske Brigades Musikkorps/3. Brigades/Divisjons Musikkorps, katalog Notearkiv III.
11Information provided by Niels Persen.
12Forsvarsmuseet. Notearkivets kortkatalog.
13See the correspondence list at the Grieg samlingen’s webpage.
14Gundersen, Egil Arnt. (2011, 29. september). Ole Olsen. I Norsk biografisk leksikon. Hentet 21. juni 2018 fra https://nbl.snl.no/Ole_Olsen.
15Bergen off. Bibliotek, Griegsamlingen, Brev 1885 01.12, Kristiania, Edvard Grieg. Tittelnr. 025101. Translation: «Could you not, when you get the chance, feel like writing the one or other for military music. I have, by the way, considered instrumenting some of your music to Sigurd Jorsalfar, – if you don’t object.»
16Egil A. Gundersen: Oscar Borg. Norges Marsjkonge. Skien 1991, pp. 77, 93.
17Egil A. Gundersen: Ole Olsen. Menesket – Musikeren – Majoren. Skien 1997, p. 78.
18Bergen off. Bibliotek, Griegsamlingen, Brev, 1892 04.05, Troldhaugen, til C.F.Peters Musikverlag. Tittelnr. 0383471. Translation: «the first «Kvad» (oldnorse term for «tune» or «song») is for example here in Bergen so awfully popular, that it’s sung by streets kids since it’s been played at the garden concerts. […] Here in my hometown, I had to change my path more than once to avoid these stanzas that are hollered out with such horrible barbarism.»
19Egil A. Gundersen: Adolf Hansen. «– han drysset melodier ut av ermet ..» – Norges H.C. Lumbye–. Skien 2002, p. 28.
20Gundersen 2002, p. 75.
21Finn Benestad & Hella Brock: Edvard Grieg. Briefwechsel mit dem Musikverlag C. F. Peters 1863–1907. Frankfurt/M, Leipzig, London etc. 1997, p. 222.
22Bergen offentlige Bibliotek. Edvard Grieg: Sørgemarsch over Rikard Nordraak. Manuskript. Tittelnr. 0202236.
23Bergen offentlige Bibliotek. Sørgemarsch over Rikard Nordraak af Edvard Grieg. Op. 6 (B.). Partitur for Blaseinstrumenter. 1892. Tittelnummer 0224651.
24Forsvarsmuset. Notearkivet kortkatalog.
25Finn Benestad & Hella Brock: Edvard Grieg. Briefwechsel mit dem Musikverlag C. F. Peters 1863–1907. Frankfurt/M, Leipzig, London etc. 1997, p. 230. Translation „if the arrangement of the Norwegian Dances is actually fine, it would probably be nice for military music in the north.“
26Benestad & Brock 1997, p. 231.
27Benestad & Brock 1997, p. 533, Translation „[…] I can only advise against arrangements for military music of any composition and especially of ‘Wedding Day on Troldhaugen‘. This is no field wherein the edition can win laurels and that it too is unlucrative has been shown by the arrangement of Peer Gynt suite I. I believe, we are on the same point of view; better no compositions at all than arrangements of which I am proven enemy.“
28More information on the composition on the Grieg samlingen webpage: http://www.bergen.folkebibl.no/cgi-bin/websok-grieg?ccl=%28%28eg*/TI+og+158*/TI%29+og+%28ff=bm%29%29+&sokeType=avansert&kolonner=notems&sortering=forfatter%20 (last checked 20.12.17).
29Wolfgang Suppan 1994.
30John Horton: Grieg. The Master Musicians Series. London 1975, pp. 26, 47, 140; Finn Benestad & Dag Schjelderup-Ebbe: Edvard Grieg. Mensch und Künstler. Leipzig 19931, pp. 73, 74, 124.
31Bergen offentlige Bibliotek, Griegsamlingen, Brev, 1911 06.29, Kristiania, Nina Grieg. Tittelnr. 0215110. Translation: Ole Olsen informed Nina Grieg that she will “ find the Bergliotmotivet, under the fourth (Bergenske Brigade), as the brigades call sign.”
32Benestad, Finn & Schjelderup-Ebbe, Dag: Edvard Grieg. Mensch und Künstler. Leipzig 19931, pp. 118–119.

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