In the footsteps of Edvard Grieg

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The world-renowned composer Edvard Grieg first visited Lofthus in 1877. Several of his major works are inspired by the scenery in Hardanger. Edvard and Nina Grieg had a close friendship with the first hosts of Hotel Ullensvang, Brita and Hans Utne, and would visit Lofthus most summers.

Around Midsummer’s Eve in 1877, Nina and Edvard Grieg paid their very first visit to Hardanger. They stayed at Nedre Børve farm, some five kilometres south of Lofthus, and planned to spend some time in Hardanger.

Nedre Børve was somewhat too remote and inaccessible for the Griegs, so they moved to the Utne hotel family in Lofthus before winter set in.

However, Edvard Grieg found that he lacked the peace and quiet there that he needed to work. He therefore had a small cabin built on the Eidnes farm in the late autumn of 1877, where he could work without interruption. He was not fond of people listening while he composed, and had the cabin built so far from the farm that he could be sure he was alone.

If he ever noticed a passer-by listening in, even if it was his wife, he would immediately close the piano. In the period while the cabin was being built, Grieg played two concerts in Bergen so they could afford to spend the winter in Lofthus. Once the cabin was finished, the Griegs stayed in Lofthus and the composer's cabin was in frequent use up to the autumn of 1878.

The Griegs had a close friendship with the first hosts of Hotel Ullensvang, Brita and Hans Utne, and would visit Lofthus most summers.

A large number of what are thought to be the most cherished of Norwegian musical pieces were composed in Lofthus, including Grieg's String Quartet in G Minor, Opus 27, The Mountain Thrall, Album for Male Voices, Opus 30 and sections of “Peer Gynt”. “In the Hall of the Mountain King” was rewritten after a huge avalanche in Lofthus, which inspired Grieg with its thunderous noise. Large sections of the Holberg Suite were also composed in Lofthus, partly in the composer's cabin and partly in Arne Lofthus’s farmhouse – another good friend of the Griegs, who lived in the village.

Edvard Grieg’s original composer's cabin still remains and can be found in Hotel Ullensvang's gardens. This is the perfect place to start on a walk following in the footsteps of the famous composer.

From the composer's cabin, walk to the Gothic stone church in Ullensvang (built in 1230-1250) and follow Elvadalen valley where the road crosses the river. Edvard Grieg was known to sit on a large stone just here to listen to the music created by nature. He also loved to stroll through the farming landscape of Opedal on his own, but also with his wife Nina and sister-in-law, Miss Hagerup.

 

On his walks, he would often meet with local fiddlers who played the unique Hardanger fiddle. They were a great source of inspiration for his compositions. The next stop is Eidnes, where Edvard Grieg would visit his good friend, Arne Lofthus. It was in his house, with wonderful views of the Folgefonna glacier, that Grieg composed most of the Holberg Suite.

 

As you make your way back to the hotel, you will pass by the school where the original composer's cabin was built.

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