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Ballad for Edvard Grieg

Production year: 2007 | 1*53 | Genres: Music
Ballade for Edvard Grieg
Origin country: Norway
Production company: NRK Norsk Rikskringkasting AS
Original title: Ballade for Edvard Grieg
Original language: Norwegian
Formats: SD

Winner of Golden Prague 2008. The great composer never played his Ballade in G minor in public, but world pianist Leif Ove Andsnes set out to do it and also tracked Grieg` s movements all over Europe. Making the documentary even involved helikoptering a piano forte to a 1800 meter mountaintop.

Andsnes is guiding on a journey through Europe, with the Ballade in G minor as the dramatical and musical focus of the programme.

 It is the winter of 1876. In his hometown of Bergen, Norway, the 32-year-old Edvard Grieg composes his largest and most personal piece for piano, the Ballad ein G minor. Recently he has lost both his parents and his baby daughter. His relationship with his wife, Nina, is difficult. In this frame of mind, Grieg composes what he himself believes to be one of his most powerful compositions. One that he himself never manages to perform in public.

It is the autumn of 2006. We are in the archives of the Library of Bergen. One of the world's most acclaimed concert pianists, Leif Ove Andsnes, is studying the original score of the Ballade in G minor – in Grieg’s handwriting. From the many personal comments and corrections in the score, it is obvious to Andsnes that Grieg struggled with the composition. Andsnes is intrigued by what he sees in the original score, and decides to study the Ballade and give a concert.

We are tossed into one of the Ballade's grand variations. Images of fingers on the keys. We pull up and see Leif Ove Andsnes playing alone on a Norwegian mountain plain…

Like Edvard Grieg, Leif Ove Andsnes is born and raised on the west coast of Norway, and like the composer he has his emotional roots in the rugged environment of the weather-beaten coast. Andsnes has played pieces by Grieg since he was 7 years old, but has little knowledge of the person Edvard Grieg. In order to succeed with the rehearsal of the Ballade, Andsnes feels he needs to get to know Grieg on a personal level. In the Library of Bergen, Andsnes also reads through the extensive collection of letters from the Grieg archives. Ballade in G minor is so deeply personal that I can not study this piece without familiarizing myself with the person Edvard Grieg. I want to study his life,” Andsnes claims. This statement is the driving force of the documentary; Andsnes search for the person Edvard Grieg. Letters, manuscripts and diaries will help in the process.

 In the main part of the documentary we travel with Leif Ove Andsnes on his tour of the season 2006-2007. We follow in Grieg's European footsteps to Leipzig, Copenhagen, London, Paris, Rome and back to Bergen and the Norwegian landscapes. The pianist spends all his free time looking for people and places that will give him further insight into the personal life of Grieg. Through this journey Andsnes discover the extreme duality of Grieg, his longing for where he is not, his ever changing moods from euphoria to deep depressions, being a nationalist and cosmopolite, humanist and self-centred..… Andsnes discovers Grieg’s strong social involvement (The Dreyfus-case in Paris) and his search for religious foothold (London). A picture emerges of a man in constant battle with himself, someone searching for meaning of existence. A man who wants to compose music for the people and about being human for better or worse. “First you must be human. All true art grows from humanism,” said Edvard Grieg.

Parallel to the discovery of Grieg the person, we follow the pianist’s musical struggle with the Ballade in G minor, from the very first rehearsal and all through the season of 2006-2007. The rehearsals happen amongst others in Andsnes flat in Copenhagen, in the Steinway showroom in London and in an empty concert hall in Paris. Andsnes share with us his thoughts on the Ballade and the challenges he faces in the music. Will these challenges bring him closer to the Norwegian composer? Through theses parts of the documentary we get a unique glimpse into the life and work of a world-class classical pianist and the path leading to the brilliance of a concert hall performance.

Through Andsnes' life and concert tour, we describe the obvious parallels between the pianist and the composer. Andsnes and Grieg, two internationally acclaimed musicians from the west of Norway, their eternal journeys to musical metropolises, their longing for Norway when they are not here, and their longing for the world when they are.

The journey and the documentary reaches a climax when Leif Ove Andsnes does what Edvard Grieg never did. During the Bergen International Music Festival in 2007, we join Andsnes when he enters the stage of the Grieg Hall to perform the Ballade in G minor.

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