The ten sets of Grieg’s Lyric Pieces encapsulate the composer’s entire creative development. The pieces collectively summarise many of the typical concerns of the later Romantic era—nature, nationalism, nostalgia, programme music, a taste for the miniature or fragmentary—and demonstrate Grieg’s cultivation of a personal and, as it were, recognisably Nordic musical dialect, namely, one of directness, emotional restraint, a pithiness redolent of the sagas, and a soundworld steeped in in the musical traditions of his native land. As such, these works alone would suffice to put Norway on the musical map, and reserve for Grieg a permanent place in music history, and in pianists’ hearts. 

Although several Lyric Pieces have reached, not undeservedly, a level of popularity that eclipses their companions—‘Sommerfugl’, ‘Til våren’, ‘Nocturne’, and ‘Bryllupsdag på Troldhaugen’ among the more technically challenging; those of the opus 12 set at a more accessible level—I would encourage you to look beyond these well-known choices. Each published set works as a selection, and in this context some of the less obvious choices make more sense, serving as foils to the pieces around them. Of course, if you’re feeling creative, it is possible to cherry-pick your own sequences that achieve the same result.

My ‘top ten’ is compiled with the intention of looking beyond the obvious, making only one choice from each published set, and also choosing one piece from each of the groups into which the Lyric Pieces can be sorted according to their sources of inspiration. Let’s dive in!

  1. Inspired by folklore: ‘Elf-dance’, op. 12 no. 4
  2. Inspired by European dances: ‘Waltz’, op. 38 no. 7 – coming soon
  3. Inspired by nature: ‘Little Bird’, op. 43 no. 4 – coming soon
  4. Inspired by loss: ‘Elegy’, op. 47 no. 7 – coming soon
  5. Romantic charakterstück: ‘Scherzo’, op. 54 no. 5 – coming soon
  6. Inspired by nostalgia: ‘Bygone Days’, op. 57 no. 1 – coming soon
  7. Inspired by travel and home: ‘Homeward’, op. 62 no. 6 – coming soon
  8. Inspired by story-telling: ‘In ballad style’, op. 65 no. 5 – coming soon
  9. Inspired by family life: ‘At your feet’, op. 68 no. 3 – coming soon
  10. Inspired by Nordic tradition: ‘Halling’, op. 71 no. 5 – coming soon