Among Grieg's works, the Lyric Pieces seem to have a special place with a special significance in their order. That he apparently viewed them in the same way is clear from the fact that his last lyrical piece, 'Remembrances', Op. 71, No. 7, in 1901, quotes his first piece, 'Arietta', Op. 12, No. 1, of 1867. Thus the circle is completed, marking the end of the period in which he was concerned with this type of piano piece, a type that the whole world loved, admired, and above all, played. Even though he revealed his deepest, most intimate feelings in many of the lyrical pieces, the music remains approachable and is often played. It would probably be hard to find the piano student who has not learned to love these lyrical pieces, in spite of their occasional difficulty, and does not feel that the struggle has been worth while, if the results are good. One should ignore the fact that they have at times been looked upon with disdain as inferior. In fact they have survived as music that is both living and vital, because they are so strongly rooted in the consciousness of the people.
The expression Lyric Pieces is actually Grieg's own invention, but does not describe a genre. Character-pieces for the piano, with or without descriptive titles, have a long tradition and Grieg is only one to contribute to this, although his contribution is a very important one. Each of his lyric pieces, like Mendelssohn's Lieder ohne Worte, expresses only one mood, one feeling. From the publication of the second book, in 1883, (the first one came out in 1867), Grieg went on to publish collections of Lyric Pieces at regular intervals until 1901. They cover the greater part of Grieg's life as an established composer, and represent more or less every single facet of his personal style.
No attempt has been made to hide the fact that the lyric pieces gradually became good business, both for Grieg himself, as well as for the publishers. In a letter to Peters, Grieg called them Semmeln - fragrant, fresh-baked, bread - and the fact of the matter is that they were indeed sold like "hot cakes". No wonder the publisher Peters, in London and Frankfurt, was delighted every time Grieg delivered a manuscript for a new album of piano pieces. He was strongly attached to many of these pieces and enjoyed playing them, while there were others that he was not pleased with at all. In a letter to his friend, Emil Horneman, he writes:
My Silence is unforgivable, because I honestIy haven't done anything, other than the so-called, "Lyric Pieces", which are surrounding me like lice and fleas in the country. (Letter to Emil Horneman, 15 September 1898)
Other people also made snide remarks about them, such as Debussy's comment that the lyric pieces were like "pink candies filled with snow," probably alluding to the pink covers on the editions of the albums from Peters.
Grieg's Lyric Pieces contain 66 compositions, published in ten albums, during the years from 1867 to 1901. Most of these albums were printed again several times, and many of the pieces were published separately. Several of the most popular of them were published in innumerable arrangements, some by Grieg himself, but mostly by others.
English translation: Phyllis Nyquist