Discover Norwegian Classical Music

Discover Norwegian Classical Music provides a comprehensive guide to the best classical music from Norway.

Edvard Grieg

Edvard Grieg was a Norwegian composer and pianist. His work straddled the worlds of National Romanticism and the contemporary, and his style was influenced by both. He is best known for his Piano Concerto in A minor, for his incidental music to Henrik Ibsen’s play Peer Gynt, and for his collection of solo piano pieces Lyric Pieces.


Edvard Grieg was born in Bergen, Norway, on 15 June 1843. His father, Alexander Grieg (1806–75), was a Scottish merchant in the Norwegian shipping trade. His mother, Gesine Judithe Hagerup (1814–75), was a native of Bergen. The couple married in 1839 and had their first child, a daughter named Alexandra, in 1840. Another daughter, Alvilde, was born in 1845 and a son, Alexander, in 1847.

Grieg showed talent for music at an early age. At the age of six he began piano lessons with his mother and two years later he started taking violin lessons from Ole Bull (1810–80), a famous Norwegian violinist who was also one of his father’s business associates. When Grieg turned thirteen his parents sent him to copy music and study the piano under Carl Bernhard Grøndahl (1786–1841), the organist at Bergen Cathedral School.

Major works

Edvard Grieg’s most famous works include his Piano Concerto in A minor, the Incidental Music to Henrik Ibsen’s play Peer Gynt, and his collection of Lyric Pieces for piano. However, his output also included chamber music, vocal music, songs for solo voice and piano, folk song arrangements, as well as incidental music for stage productions other than Peer Gynt.

Johan Svendsen

Johan Svendsen was a Norwegian composer, conductor, and violinist, born in Christiania, Norway. Norwegian classical music is not very well-known outside of Norway, but Svendsen was one of the most important Norwegian composers of the 19th century.


Johan Severin Svendsen was born in Christiania (now Oslo), Norway, on October 30, 1840. His father, a musician in the royal chapel, taught him the violin. Svendsen made his public debut as a violinist at the age of eight. He went on to study with Otto Lindholm, and then with Ole Bull at the Bergen Conservatory where he graduated in 1858. He eventually became one of Norway’s most celebrated violinists.

Svendsen also composed a considerable amount of music. Although he wrote several operas, none were particularly successful. His greatest contribution is probably his orchestral works. These include two Norwegian Rhapsodies (1862 and 1885), both inspired by Edvard Grieg’s Peer Gynt suites, as well as a third Rhapsody (1874) which draws its inspiration from Norwegian folk music.

Major works

Svendsen’s Symphony No. 1 in D minor, Op. 4 (1862) was very successful, and is still performed today. It was inspired by Richard Wagner’s music, and has a duration of approximately 45 minutes.

Svendsen’s Romance in G major for violin and orchestra Op. 26 (1881) is one of his most popular works, and has been recorded numerous times. The work is in three movements, and takes approximately 10 minutes to perform.

Svendsen’s Second Symphony in B♭ major, Op. 31 (1883) was inspired by Edvard Grieg’s music. It is approximately 40 minutes long and has four movements.

Ole Bull

Ole Bull was a Norwegian virtuoso violinist who achieved great international fame. Many classical violinists today credit him with having elevated their instrument to new levels of expressive and artistic potential.


Norwegian violinist and composer Ole Bornemann Bull (1810-1880) was one of the most popular and most traveled musicians of the 1800s. A national icon in Norway, he was also celebrated in America and Europe for his virtuosity and stage charisma. In his day, Bull rivaled Paganini in fame and was known as the “Norwegian Paganini.”

Born in Bergen, Norway, Bull showed great promise as a violinist from an early age. He gave his first public performance at the age of nine and made his professional debut two years later. In 1828,Bull set out on a concert tour of Denmark, Sweden and Finland. The following year he continued his travels, spending several months performing in Russia before moving on to Germany, France and England.

In 1831, Bull toured America with fellow Norwegian musician Hans Angelo Zabcke. The two men were an instant success with American audiences, who were fascinated by their exotic musical style. After returning to Europe, Bull married an English woman named Emma Williams and settled in London.

Despite his success as a concert performer, Bull longed to return to his native Norway. In 1852, he finally realized his dream when he bought a property overlooking the village of Lysøen on Norway’s west coast. For the remainder of his life,Bull divided his time between Lysøen and touring internationally. He died at Lysøen in 1880 at the age of 70.

Major works

Ole Bornemann Bull (1810–1880) was a Norwegian virtuoso violinist and composer. He enjoyed great popularity in Victorian Britain and the United States, where he gave sold-out concerts. His most famous pieces are his violin concerto Fantasia Norvegese and the melodrama Per Sestri Levante.

Bull was born in Bergen, Norway. He started playing the violin when he was just three years old. When he was 10, he gave his first public performance, playing Joseph Haydn’s Violin Concerto in C major. He then went on to study under Johan Henrik Koefoed and François-Joseph Fétis in Copenhagen and François-Antoine Habeneck in Paris.

Bull made his professional debut in 1828, playing his own violin concerto in Christiania (now Oslo). He quickly gained popularity for his virtuosic playing and began touring Europe. He soon became one of the most famous violinists of his time.

In 1838, Bull settled in London, where he gave many sold-out concerts. He also toured extensively throughout Britain and the United States. His most famous pieces are his violin concerto Fantasia Norvegese and the melodrama Per Sestri Levante.

Bull retired from performing in 1867 but continued to compose until his death in 1880. His music combines Norwegian folk melodies with a Romantic sensibility. Today, he is considered one of the most important Norwegian classical composers.

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