part of its launch of yet another midpriced line - will it
last any longer than its predecessors? - DG has extracted
the most familiar items from Neeme Järvi's three-disc Grieg
survey. The performances all have their moments, thanks to
the Gothenburg ensemble's sensitive, stylish playing. Sweden
is not Norway - as John Culshaw amusingly reminded us in Ring
Resounding - but a common "Scandinavian" musical
sensitivity can nonetheless be felt in all these performances.
The woodwinds frequently contribute a fresh, airy sound and
authentic phrasing in the Piano Concerto. And in the first
of the Two Nordic Melodies, the violins manage to
sound a touch rustic in the midrange while taking on a polished
sheen above the staff.
the timing indicates, this isn't a particularly slow rendering
of the Piano Concerto, but it's easy and unhurried in passages
where others routinely press forward, and so leaves an expansive
impression. Lilya Zilberstein's work, however, is inconsistent.
She's short of sheer power, but shrewd enough to work around
those limits, building and pacing the first movement cadenza,
for example, to suggest an almost epic breadth. On the other
hand, big chords, such as those at the very opening, turn
glassy, as does the climax of the uneventful central Adagio.
She can inflect sensitively, but isn't always "tuned
in" to the music's expressive possibilities: thus, she
gauges the second subject recap nicely, but later the Finale's
lyrical episode more or less slips away. It's a solid performance,
but eclipsed even by the midprice competition, beginning
with the Lupu/Previn account once available on Decca.
Gynt suites, too, are an on-again-off-again affair.
The woodwinds again impress with their nuanced shaping
of phrases in Morning Mood - where one would expect
it - and the Arabian Dance - where one mightn't
think of it offhand. Dotted rhythms are taut and tensile
in the turbulent Abduction of the Bride and Peer
Gynt's Homecoming. On the other hand, while Järvi's
direct approach to Solvejg's Song, here performed sans soloist,
mitigates the piece's sentimentality, he undercuts the
power of his similarly forthright Åse's Death by
hustling along its already quick basic tempo.
The Two Nordic Melodies are likely to be the only unfamiliar item
for most listeners; they are pleasant enough, but hardly sufficient reason
to buy the disc.
Järvi's unfussy naturalness is an asset, though he makes
heavy going of the concerto's final coda, and is a bit overemphatic
with some of the Peer climaxes. The sound, from chronologically
separated sessions, is attractive, with a nice ambience enhancing
the sound of those woodwinds.