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Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907)
Cello Concerto (1883) (orchestrated from Cello Sonata, Op. 36, by Joseph Horovitz and Benjamin Wallfisch)
Last Spring, Opus 34 No. 1(1887)
The Wounded Heart, Opus 34 No. 2
Solveig's Song, Opus 55 No. 4 (1875/1886)
Ingrid's Lament, Opus 55 No. 1
The First Meeting, Opus 53 No. 1 (1891)
Norwegian, Opus 53 No. 2
(all arranged Benjamin Wallfisch)
Ich liebe dich, Opus 5 No. 3 (1865)
To Spring, Opus 43 No. 6 (1886)
(arranged Michael Freyhan)
Raphael Wallfisch (cello)
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Vernon Handley
Rec 3-5 May 2001, All Saints, Tooting, London
BLACK BOX BBM 1070 [61.56]

The major work here is the arrangement of Grieg's Cello Sonata as a cello concerto, as a result of the skilful work of Joseph Horovitz and Benjamin Wallfisch. The latter is also responsible for the majority of the orchestral versions of the beautifully crafted miniatures that complete this appealing collection.

Grieg's Cello Sonata is a relatively early work, dating from 1883 and constructed on quite a substantial scale in excess of thirty minutes. There is some marvellous writing for the solo instrument, both rich in tone and lyrical in line, and Wallfisch is at the top of his eloquent form. Of course the big question is: 'How contrived does the music seem when inflated to concerto proportions?' The answer to that question can be handled with confidence, in that it is doubtful whether anyone who did not know the original would be aware that the concerto was originally conceived not for orchestra but as a duo for cello and piano. All credit then to all involved, including the committed performers. The Black Box recording too serves the music well, with a nicely judged balance between solo and ensemble.

If the music has a weakness it is that the attempts at structural unity seem all too contrived, though in this performance at least there is a spontaneity about the phrasing which brings out the individuality of the material itself. The slow movement is at once eloquent and tender, while each of the outer movements has abundant vitality, and interesting contrasts between the solo line and the orchestra. No wonder this piece has made headway in the concerto repertoire in recent years - it is well worth hearing and does considerable justice to Grieg's inventiveness.

The remainder of the disc is given over to more arrangements, now of various short items drawn from all manner of sources, including a couple of lyrical pieces from the Peer Gynt incidental music. The arrangers are Benjamin Wallfisch (for the most part) and Michael Freyhan. Again the subtly crafted music lends itself well to new identities, and while none of this programme can be classed as great music all of it is charming and entertaining, and some pieces, like the beautiful Solveig's song, have a vein of the deepest tenderness. Wallfisch and LPO play with distinction, sensitivity and earnest commitment of the highest order. This is a most pleasing disc, though there is room still for the cello and piano original of the concerto on the shelf of any discerning collector.

Terry Barfoot

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