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Edvard GRIEG (1843 - 1907)
In Autumn Concert Overture Op. 11 - (1866)
Piano Concerto in A Minor Op.16 (1868)
Symphony in C Minor (1864)
Noriko Ogawa (piano)
Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra/Ole Kristian Ruud
Rec. Grieg Hall, Bergen, February 2002 (Symphony); June 2002, In Autumn and Piano Concerto. DDD
BIS CD-1191 [79’09"]


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This well filled disc will give buyers immense pleasure. If this particular repertoire is required the disc is well worth purchasing.

The recording quality is open and clear and the orchestra is in fine fettle. Noriko Ogawa, one of BIS’s ‘house’ pianists, has a number of extremely good recordings to her credit, and this one is no exception.

Comparison with the equivalent works, though not similarly coupled, by the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra conducted by Neeme Järvi, shows the older conductor in a very good light. In Gothenburg, there is more vitality in the playing, although tempi are very similar. It is all a matter of phrasing and the DG recordings are better in this respect.

The Bergen Symphony Orchestra is very good, but their Swedish rivals are better still. There is not much to worry about in recording quality as both companies are well known for producing first class results in these venues.

I do not know what Grieg would have thought about the number of recordings there now are of this symphony, performance of which was originally forbidden by the composer.

This is a very early work with the influences of middle European structure and sound patterns clearly in evidence. The symphonic argument is fairly perfunctory. I do not find much buzz about the progress of the symphony from start to finish.

When we get to the Piano Concerto, we are in a quite different situation, as the Grieg Piano Concerto is one of the cornerstones of romantic concerto writing. It is perhaps the most popular concerto in the repertoire. This means that Ogawa is under the severest competition, with superb and well loved versions by Curzon, Rubinstein, Kovacevich, Perahia and Andsnes all vying for favoured status. The aforementioned pianists are just the tip of the iceberg, being the favourite performances from early vinyl up to CD. In addition to these there is a myriad of others all jostling for recognition in this market, and to some extent, this illustrates the problem of the current record industry. With these pianists, there are at least five top notch versions before Ogawa even gets a look in. To a large extent, it will be the couplings which decide upon the final choice.

That Ogawa can hold her head high in such exalted company is a very strong plus point, and if you are also looking for a performance of the Symphony, this is a safe recommendation, without touching the very summit of interpretations.

The disc is completed by a lovely performance of In Autumn, an overture written by the composer whilst he was in Rome. When he returned to Copenhagen and showed it to Gade, the older composer’s reaction was that it was "a goddam piece of junk, and that he (Grieg) should go home and write something better." After recovering from the comments, the composer completely rewrote the overture some years later, and has given us a very tuneful piece to complete this very good disc.

John Phillips



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