Last year when I was researching Edvard Grieg for the online programme notes for our Symphony I had no idea I would be visiting the home that he and Nina had built outside Bergen. I’m not all that big on cruise ship tours but a visit to Troldhaugen was a given. We were fortunate that our tour wa led by that rarest of creatures – a well-versed and well-spoken guide. A brief tour of Bergen – which made us want to see more of this beautiful city – was followed by a visit to a stunning example of a Stave Church and finally a stop at Grieg’s home and a short piano concert in the small but acoustically perfect hall on the grounds.
Troldhaugen, designed by Grieg’s cousin Schak Bull, derives its name from two Norwegian words Trold (troll) and Haugr (hill). Grieg was just under five feet tall and his wife Nina was several inches smaller – this led to the local ragamuffins referring to them as the “trolls of Troldhaugen”. The Griegs lived there from its completion in 1885 until the composer’s death in 1907. After his death Nina moved to Copenhagen but her ashes were brought back and interned in the mountainside crypt with her husband’s.
There was a small matching building a few feet from the house, as a joke I said that it must be the outhouse. Turns out that it was!
Grieg often said that Troldhaugen was his finest opus!
Unusually for the time the interior walls were left as bare planed logs which gave an added warmth to the rooms. It was difficult to take pictures as there were two tours groups during our visit. The house is filled with mementos of visitors, awards and family. Pride of place is given to the Steinway that was somehow smuggled into the house as a surprise birthday present in June 1892. It was custom built to allow for Grieg’s small stature.
The Troldsalen or Concert Hall is ingeniously sunk into the landscape and the turf roof renders it almost invisible as your cross the wooden bridge to the house. The hall seats 200 people and has a remarkable acoustic. More remarkable is the view of the Composer’s hut and Lake Nordås through the panoramic window at the back of the . And I know the word “magical” can be over-used but there was something “magical” about listening to pianist Rune Alver perform a selection of Grieg’s works in that setting.
A sign directed us to go down a series of stone stairs and paths to Grieg’s tomb and we joined a few people heading down the slope to the water’s edge. But we couldn’t see any tomb and pretty much gave up finding it. However on the climb back I glanced up and there in the rock was the site were Edvard and Nina’s ashes are interred. One evening when Grieg and his best friend Frants Beyer were out fishing on the lake, the last rays of the sunset hit that spot of rock. “There I would like to rest forever” said Grieg. Schak Bull designed the crypt in the rock with Edvard and Nina’s names carved in Runic characters.
And here is Rune Alver performing one of the pieces he played at our little concert.
September 21 is National Clean Up Day – so I suggest we all take this to heart and clean up our acts!