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Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907)
Lyric Pieces

Heidi Kommerell (fortepiano)
Rec 13-15 November 2003, Museum Huelsman Bielefeld
MD&G 604 1271-2 [58.27]

In my native country, Opus 43 No. 3
Gade, Opus 57 No. 2
Homesickness, Opus 57 No.8
Homeward, Opus 62 No. 6
Watchman’s song, Opus 12 No. 3
Cradle song, Opus 68 No. 5
Waltz, Opus 38 No. 7
Folksong, Opus 12 No. 5
Elegy, Opus 38 No. 6
Melody, Opus 47 No. 3
Norwegian melody, Opus 12 No. 6
Melody, Opus 38 No. 3
Summer evening, Opus 71 No. 2
Canon, Opus 38 No. 8
Sylphe, Opus 62 No. 1
At your feet, Opus 68 No. 3
Butterfly, Opus 43 No. 1
Notturno, Opus 54 No. 4
Phantom, Opus 62 No. 5
Gone, Opus 71 No. 6
Arietta, Opus 12 No. 1

Remembrances, Opus 71 No. 7


This Grieg recital is of special interest for several reasons. First, Grieg is always cited as a miniaturist who wrote a few larger pieces such as the Piano Concerto and Peer Gynt; yet it is always that larger pieces that we hear. So a focus upon what many critics regard as his natural territory must be a good thing.

Grieg composed his various sets of Lyric Pieces across several decades and they therefore represent a subtle but telling cross-section of his stylistic development; nor can they be pinned down to a single outlook, as the titles readily reveal. The pianist Heidi Kommerell plays on a Streicher piano of 1829, so her performances have a certain aspect of authenticity of scale and tone. With subtle mood music such as this, all these factors are of considerable interest, and so too are the performances themselves.

If there is a caveat it is hardly a major one, but more a matter of whether the sound of the piano – which was a ‘cutting edge instrument’ in 1829 – is necessarily the right sound for music composed towards the end of the 19th century. No doubt you can argue that Grieg would have known plenty of mature instruments during his own time, but even so the observation remains valid. As for the recorded sound, this is never less than adequate and in faster pieces the crisp rhythmic articulation is given due prominence.

The slower music, of which there is a good deal, does gain somewhat from the more expressive sound and interpretation of a ‘modern instrument’ performance by a great pianist such as Murray Perahia, who is one such who excels in this repertoire.

Kommerell is an artist who conveys much understanding and sensitivity in these delightful pieces. There are twenty-two collected here, the longest of them the Bach-inspired Canon, Opus 38 No. 8, which plays for just on five minutes. But the majority are a good deal smaller than that, veritable ‘songs without words’ just a minute or two in duration but sensitively and imaginatively conceived to create maximum effect.

Terry Barfoot

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