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‘Ten Pieces’ Inspiring Creativity Through Classical Music – Week 4

23 February 2015

Here is Miss Rakowski’s next instalment of our BBC Ten Pieces for you to listen to at home.

Week 4 – Norwegian Monsters

Composer: Edvard Grieg  (1843 – 1907)

Title: In the Hall of the Mountain King, from Peer Gynt Suite No.1

Genre: Orchestral Suite

Background: Can you imagine a really horrible creature? No, not a mean teacher, even worse than that! Think of something really, really hideous. Now picture yourself going to meet him in a dark cave, surrounded by his nasty family and gruesome servants, who all want him to kill you. This is what happens to Peer Gynt when he enters The Hall of the Mountain King. Peer Gynt is the dashing but slightly naughty hero of a play by the Norwegian writer Henrik Ibsen. The Mountain King is a grim troll, a type of Norwegian monster, whose daughter Peer Gynt wants to marry. Composer Edvard Grieg, who was also from Norway, wrote the music for a large orchestra to perform during Ibsen’s play, and he clearly had a lot of fun doing it. When Peer Gynt first goes into the cave, we hear him tiptoeing gingerly along, but as he gets closer and closer to the Mountain King, the music gets faster and faster and louder and louder until… Bang-crash! Bang-crash! It’s time to face the troll…

The Music Today: Again, as this is an extremely popular and successful composition, the music has been used in a variety of ways. Perhaps most famously In the Hall of the Mountain King is used to advertise a British Theme Park called ‘Alton Towers’.  The music also appears during many films including How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Beetlejuice, Rat Race, The Borrowers and Night at the Museum 2: Battle of the Smithsonian.

Things to do

  1. Listen to the music at the beginning. The strings are playing their instruments with their fingers. Do you know what this technique is called? Why do you think they are not using their bows?
  2. At 0:17 a solo instrument plays the main tune. What is the instrument called? Which family does it belong to in the orchestra?
  3. Can you describe what happens in the music at 1.41? How does it change? What effect does this have on the mood? What do you think is happening in the story at this point?
  4. If you were to draw a picture of the Mountain King, what would he look like? Try to make him as hideous as possible!
  5. What scares you the most? What would you run away from in a creepy cave? Bats? Rats? Ghosts?

You can listen to the music on YouTube.