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  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    



Edward GRIEG (1843-1907)
Lyric Pieces (Selected)
1. op.12 no.1 Arietta
2. op.38 no.1 Berceuse
3. op.43 no.1 Butterfly
4. op.43 no.2 Solitary wanderer
5. op.43 no.6 To Springtime
6. op.47 no.2 Album page
7. op.47 no.3 Melodie
8. op.47 no.4 Norwegian Dance Halling
9. op. 54 no.1 Shepherd boy
10. op.54 no.3 March of the dwarfs
11. op. 54 no.4 Notturno
12. op.54 no.5 Scherzo
13. op.57 no.6 Homesick
14. op.62 no. 4 Brooklet
15. op.62 no.6 Homewards
16. op.65 no.5 Ballad
17. op.65 no.6 Wedding day at Troldhäugen
18. op.68 no.2 Grandmothers minuet
19. op.68 no.3 At your feet
20. op.68 no.5 At the cradle
21. op.71 no.1 Once upon a time
22. op.71 no.2 Summer evening
23. op.71 no.3 Puck
24. op.71 no.4 Peace of the woods
25. op.71 no.6 Gone
26. op.71 no.7 Remembrances
Håken Austbø, piano
Recorded Summer 2001
REGIS RRC 1071 [c72:00]

Budget price

Griegs Lyric Pieces make a fascinating chronicle of his composing career. As James Murrays helpful note explains, they were published in ten volumes, extending from the first, op.12, in 1867, to the last, op.71, in 1901. Many of them have become well-established classics of the pianists repertoire, including a number featured on this disc, for example Wedding Day, Butterfly and Puck. What is striking is the consistently high quality of the pieces; very few are more than a couple of minutes long, yet they capture their moods and pictures with such deft perfection. How much they must have inspired other composers of piano miniatures, such as Debussy and Bartók, the more so given their harmonic daring and pungent folk-music references, which always keep sentimentality at bay.

Håken Austbø seems the perfect pianist for this wonderful music. Though not Norwegian by birth (he grew up in France), Norway is clearly in his blood and in his genes, and he responds with wholly convincing open-heartedness to the glories of the music. To take one track almost at random, try one of the perhaps less familiar pieces, op. 47 no.3, simply entitled Melodie. Grieg spins a melancholy line of classical beauty here, and Austbø is able to catch perfectly that sadness combined with strength that is the musics special quality. All to do with finding exactly the right tempo, and being aware of the delicious touches of harmony and texture that light up every corner of the music. He equally gives the more robust numbers thrilling performances; the Halling of track 8 is bracing with its semitonal clangs, while the celebrated March of the Dwarfs has an irresistible rhythmic drive and just the right sense of reckless abandon.

Austbø has built up an enviable reputation on CD already, mostly for his brilliant Messiaen recordings. I urge anyone who loves Grieg, or indeed piano music as a whole, to listen to this disc, which is a worthy competitor to Gilels on DG, showing perhaps even more affectionate responsiveness to the idiom of the music. You have here a consummate artist of profound sensitivity, who has both the imagination and the flawless technique to make the most of these exquisite masterpieces. The nice thing is that he has recorded in this issue only a selection; there are plenty of treasures still to be mined, and I for one cant wait for more.

Gwyn Parry-Jones

Peter Hartmann writes that:-

Contrary to what Gwyn Parry-Jones says in his review Austbø has indeed recorded the complete Lyric Pieces (Books I-X) by the Norwegian master. The recording is from the Dutch budget label Brilliant Classics (no. 99748) in a 3 CD box and is available from Crotchet for £8.99.

It is a very good recording, no doubt, but even better than this and Gilels' or Richter's or Gieseking's recordings is Leif Ove Andsnes's version on Virgin Classics, currently available as a budget double CD. Crotchet £8.99 For everybody interested in Grieg this version is an absolute must.

Peter Hartmann

January 19, 2002


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