| Dear Deabra and Vocalisters:|
I quote from the introduction by Bradley Ellingboe in his publication
"Forty Five songs of Edvard Grieg" published by Leyerle Publications.
The following describes the present forms of the languages of Norway,
Sweden and Denmark.
"Danish, Swedish and Norwegian are closely related and mutually
understandable. Norwegian and Swedish are very similar in
pronunciation but, to a certain extent, spelling and grammar differ
between the two. Conversely, Norwegian and Danish are very similar
on paper, but the sounds of these languages are further removed."
"Grieg wrote songs to texts in four different tongues: German,
Danish and two types of Norwegian. Norway has had two languages
since the middle of the 19th century. These still exist today and
were a great source of debate in Grieg's time."
"In a reaction against centuries of rule from Copenhagen, Norwegians
began to purge their language of Danish words. 'Riksmal', later
renamed 'Bokmal' had been the official written Norwegian during
Danish rule. But by the middle of the 19th century it had begun to
incorporate more and more typically Norwegian words and re-spelled
many other words to denote their Norwegian pronunciation."
"In 1853, Ivar Aasen, a self-taught linguist, introduced 'Landsmal'
which soon became the other official Norwegian language, It was a
compilation and standardization of the many Norwegian dialects which
had descended from Old Norse among the country people. Landsmal's
proponents felt it was the true Norwegian tongue, free of foreign
influences and a direct descendant of the language of the Vikings.
The two most important writers in Landsmal during Grieg's time wee A.
O. Vinje (poet of "Vaaren") and Arne Garborg. Grieg himself felt
great sympathy for the Landsmal movement and many of his best songs
are settings of poems in that language."
Under the topic of "Discrepancies in the Language" and as an
explanation of his attempt to indicat pronounciation via IPA,
"It should be noted that poems written in either Riksmal or Danish
have been transcribed into the IPA with an Oslo, or south-eastern
Norwegian accent. Those of you who read Norwegian and possibly note
discrepancies between the way you were taught to say a word and our
phonetic transcription should take this into account. It is common
practice among Norwegian singers today to sing Riksmal and Danish in
In regard to those poems which were written in Landsmal, experts in
this field at the University of Oslo were consulted and the poems
have been transcribed in a standardized Landsmal. I must be
remembered that written Landsmal is a compromise of dialects, but
different regions may pronounce words differently, even today.
Nevertheless, we have done our best to transcribe the poem according
to the highest common denominator of the Landsmal movement and trust
that the phonetic transcription indicates a pronunciation any
Norwegian would immediately understand."
The "Norwegian" quality the the language in Griegs' songs can extend
even to the songs he set to Danish poets. Ellingboe's IPA
translations help to make these slight changes clear. It has been my
experience that the Norwegian approach to pronunciation is less back
in the mouth than is found in Danish. Back consonants tend to be
more clearly pronounced and more easily recognized.
I hope this is all of some help. I strongly recommend Ellingboe's
books of Grieg's music and translations/IPA. His English
translations are also very good and give the English speaking singer
a wonderful opportunity to experience some of Grieg's genius as a
writer of songs.
Lloyd W. Hanson