"Air" from The Holberg Suite

By Edward Grieg


When the noted Norwegian playwright Ludvig Holberg (1684-1754) was honored on the bicentenary of his birth, Grieg paid tribute by composing a suite for solo piano which made use of musical forms contemporary with Holberg. While they may have been archaic forms, Grieg wrote in a lush Romantic style thoroughly infused with Nordic ambiance.

An “Air,” simply put, is another term for song – to exhale; in this case, it’s another song without words. Grieg’s “Air” is the fourth of five movements in the suite and is marked “Andante Religioso.” It employs a miniature sonata form structure (ABA) to present a nearly endless melody that is shared between the soprano and bass. It is one of my all-time favorite musical compositions. Its sincere beauty instantly communicates a world of heartache and humanity.

— Greg Anderson