“The fine Providence Singers dispatched [the Esperanto text] on lovely rivers of pentatonic melody”
The Boston Globe
15 November 2009
(Harrison La Koro Sutro)


Edvard Grieg (1843–1907)
Portrait by Hjalmar Eilif Emanuel Peterssen

Edvard Grieg

I Himmelen  (1906)

“Artists like Bach and Beethoven erected churches and temples on the heights. I only wanted to build dwellings for men in which they might feel happy and at home.”

“I am sure my music has a taste of codfish in it.”

— Edvard Grieg

Although the popular perception of Edvard Grieg relies heavily on his A-minor piano concerto and incidental music from Peer Gynt, Grieg had an impact and acquaintance with European music that reached well beyond Norway.

He began piano studies at the Leipzig Conservatory when he was 15 and gave his debut concert in Sweden in his early twenties, playing Beethoven’s Pathétique sonata. He wrote his A-minor piano concerto in 1868 and later showed it to Franz Listz in Rome. (Listz played it at sight from the manuscript, including the orchestral parts. He was pleased with the work.) He met Tchaikovsky, who admired Grieg’s music, received honorary degrees from Oxford and Cambridge, and was delighted to learn that Percy Grainger was a great admirer of his compositions. (“Here comes this Australian who plays [my Norwegian Peasant Dances] as they ought to be played!”) Henrik Ibsen, the great Norwegian playwright, requested that Grieg compose incidental music for the premiere of his play Peer Gynt, which Grieg provided. Selections from that composition — “Morning Mood,” “In the Hall of the Mountain King,” “Åse’s Tod” — are among the most readily identifiable melodies in Western music.

Grieg was also at home with emerging musical technology. He made live recordings for piano rolls and 78 rpm gramophone records in Paris at the turn of the century, many of which were preserved and remain available today as CDs. He was among the best-known composers of his day, with international performances of his music. His work was quintessentially Norwegian, yet internationally important, as Sibelius for Finland, Dvořák for Slovenia, Bartók for Hungary, and others.

I Himmelen is a setting of a hymn text by the early 17th-century Swedish priest and poet Laurentius Laurentii Laurinus. Grieg, who had battled health problems since life-threatening lung disease in his early twenties, composed it near the end of his life, part of his Fire Salmer (Four Psalms, 1906).

I Himmelen
Text by Laurentius Laurentii Laurinus (1573–1655 ), translation by William Maccall (1812–88)

I Himmelen, i Himmelen,
hvor Gud, vor Herre bor,
hvor saligt did at komme hen,
hvor er den Glæde stor.
For evig, evig skal vi der
se Gud i Lyset, som han er,
se Herren Zebaot.

Og Legemet, og Legemet
som lagdes bort i Muld,
det vorder alt så skinnende,
ja som det skjære Guld.
Og ved af ingen Vunde mer
mens Åsyn det til Åsyn ser
Gud Herren Zebaot.

Og Sjælen får sin Prydelse,
den Krone, som er sagt,
færdighedens Brudekrans,
og så den hvide Dragt.
O Gud, hvad Lyst at være dig nær,
at se i Lyset som du er
dig, Herren Zebaot.

In heav´n above, in heav´n above,
Where God, our Father, dwells;
How boundless there the blessedness!
No tongue its greatness tells;
There face to face, and full and free,
Forever evermore we see:
Our God, the Lord of hosts!

In heav´n above, in heav´n above,
What glory deep and bright!
The splendor of the noonday sun
Grows pale before its light:
The heavenly light that never goes down,
Around whose radiance clouds never frown,
Is God, the Lord of hosts!

In heav´n above, in heav´n above,
God hath a joy prepared,
Which mortal ear had never heard,
Nor mortal vision shared,
Which never pierced to mortal breast,
By mortal lips was never expressed,
O God, the Lord of hosts!