“Music is a moral law. It gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, a charm to sadness, and life to everything. It is the essence of order, and leads to all that is good, just and beautiful, of which it is the invisible, but nevertheless dazzling, passionate, and eternal form.”

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Grieg's Holberg Suite: Fingering

     A student writes: "I have a problem playing the
 alternating-hands fingering in Grieg's "Holberg
Ludvig Holberg
1684 –1754
Suite," op. 40, first movement. I find the alternating right and left hands so difficult that it makes me wonder if the design is to limit the tempo these sixteenth notes can go, or insure they will be played clearly and cleanly? I can go faster just playing the entire passages in the right hand!"

Edvard Grieg
     I respond that I'm embarrassed to admit I haven't explored Grieg's piano music much except for the concerto and the transcription of "Notturno." Originally known as "From Holberg's Time," the suite consists of dances in an 18th century style. I know the "Holberg Suite" from its string orchestra version, which is very compelling. But, apparently, the suite was originally for piano solo. It was Grieg's contribution to the two-hundredth anniversary celebration of the 17th -18th century playwright, Ludvig Holberg.
     The question of fighting with an uncomfortable fingering in the score when an easier one is available reminds me of something someone once said. Oh, wait. I  said it: "The score tells us how the music sounds, not how it should feel in our hands." So regardless of the fact that the uncomfortable fingering might be designed to slow us down or force us to play more cleanly, take the easier fingering. You can still decide on the tempo and clarity with a more agreeable fingering. So this student's instinct is correct, play the passage in the right hand. It is not necessary to alternate hands.
     Here is my suggested fingering and redivision between the hands: (Click the image to enlarge.)
Edvard Grieg, Holberg, Ist Movement


1 comment:

Mary G said...

It makes my day to see you agree with my instinct to play all the measures shown EXACTLY AS YOU FINGERED! (This, of course, was not the publisher's fingering). Thank you also for the historical information about the piece.