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Grieg Violin Sonatas 1-3
Henning Kraggerud (violin) with Helge Kjekshus (piano)
Naxos 8.553904 66'50".

Leaving aside the indispensable, incandescent historic (1928) Kreisler/Rachmaninoff recording of No. 3 [MSCM MM30379], this must be one of the best of the many complete recordings of Grieg sonatas? I received it for review in conjunction with a memorable recital at the Wallace Collection in London; their occasional Sunday morning recital series in the great picture gallery with the Hals Laughing Cavalier are worth catching - they have a way of discovering the best younger musicians around. The violinist is in his late twenties, the pianist mid-thirties. Both are highly regarded in their naïve Norway. This 1996 Naxos recording was made in Hampshire.

Grieg (at the piano) played his violin sonatas as often as possible. The notes by Oivind Norheim confirm that he was never confident with large-scale works, blaming (unfairly) his training at Leipzig. The early first sonata (Op. 8, 1865) is violinistic, though he had no experience of the instrument, and it introduces some harmonic experimentation and knowledge of the Norwegian hardanger fiddle. The second sonata (Op. 13, 1867) has a unifying motif and increasing influence of folk music; Gade thought it 'too Norwegian'! The third sonata (Op. 45, 1887) was twenty years later, concentrate and darker, with a particularly expressive middle Romanza.

The performances are intensely committed, excellently recorded and balanced, and based upon detailed critical study of the sources. If you want all three Grieg sonatas, this version is a safe recommendation and excellent value.


Peter Grahame Woolf


Peter Grahame Woolf

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