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In Edvard Grieg's footsteps

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Hotel Ullensvang

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In midsummer 1877, the famous Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg and his wife Nina came to Hardanger for the first time. They developed a close friendship to Brita and Hans Utne, their hosts at Hotel Ullensvang, and Nina and Edvard Grieg visited Lofthus summer after summer. Several of Grieg’s greatest works are inspired by the Hardanger nature, the culture and the people here, and much of it is considered the most precious in Norwegian music. At Lofthus, he composed String Quartet in G minor, Opus 27, Den bergtekne (The Mountain Thrall), Album for Male Voices, Opus 30 and some of the incidental music to "Peer Gynt". "Dovregubben's hall" (In the Hall of the Mountain King) was re-written after he saw a huge avalanche thundering down into the waters at Velure on the other side of the fjord. Large parts of the Holberg suite were also created at Lofthus, then in the farmhouse of Arne Lofthus, another good friend of his in the village. His original composers cabin stands to this day in the garden of Hotel Ullensvang, and here our tour "In Edvard Grieg's Footsteps" begins. Edmund Harris Utne, great-grandson of Brita and Hans Utne and 4th generation former owner of the hotel, takes you on an audio-guided tour around the Lofthus village. The round trip takes 60 - 90 minutes.

Audio guides available in:
Norsk bokmål, English (British)

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Points of interest


Elvadalen Valley and "Spring"

Edvard Grieg frequently emphasised how much Hardanger had meant to him as an artist and as a person. He was overwhelmed by the immense beauty and grandeur of the landscape, and between fjord and mountain he found the peace and tranquillity he needed to realise and bring forth the musical ideas he had long felt where shut inside his creative mind. In a letter from Lofthus dated April 1878, Grieg writes: “Again I must impress on you how wonderful it is out here now. Incomparable weather a cloudless sky, and nature awakening all around us! Not to forget the starlings. There is a whole concert going on, everywhere one goes”. And in another letter “Yes, ‘this Lofthus’, as you say so disdainfully. But you should see ‘this Lofthus’, see the sky-high mountains, snow-clad right down to the sea, see these millions of picturesque things (…)”. To get this inspiration, Grieg usually wanders around in the village on his own, and where he came by, he often was invited inside by the locals. This way he came to meet several skilled Hardanger fiddle players who played for him traditional folk tunes. This experiences got reflected in Grieg’s own compositions later on, and his use and development of Norwegian folk music brought the music of Norway to international consciousness, as well as helping to develop a national identity. In the rare occasions when the Grieg took a stroll through the village in company with his family, the diminutive Grieg (only 1,54 metres tall) was always first, followed by his wife Nina one step behind, and three steps behind Nina’s sister, Tonny Hagerup. This “image” has been immortalised in the wooden statues made by Lars Stana that stand in the hotel gardens. One spring day Grieg was walking all by himself in the valley of Elvadal - there was still a lot of snow on the mountain tops, the weather was not too bad, the leaves on the trees and bushes were bright green and the river was big, the Skrikjo waterfall ran like a silver blanket down from the mountains. So when he came up Elvadalen, all alone, all this beauty of the countryside in spring touched him, he was captivated by the rushing sound of the river. He went back up on a large rock that lies close into the river, up there he was sitting and then came the inspiration, the first notes for “The Last Spring”. The famous piece ”The Last Spring” by Edvard Grieg. Afterwards he returned to his composer's cabin and completed the piece.

Audio guides available in:
Norsk bokmål, English (British)