The Grieg piano concerto is one of the
true warhorses of the repertoire — it shows up in almost
every orchestra’s program at some point each season and
has been recorded countless times by true legends of pianism:
Lipatti, Rubinstein, Entremont. Simon Barere died on the
stage of Carnegie Hall while performing the work. It has
even been recorded in its original version surviving from
the time before Grieg incorporated some of the changes Franz
All of this said toward this one main
point — with all these recordings still available, with
so many performances currently scheduled for the world’s
concert halls, why on earth buy a this reissued recording
of the Grieg concerto? Moreover, why are people still recording
it? Popularity of the piece aside, what on earth is going
to make a new recording stand out from the massive pile
of previous recordings? In the case of this release, part
of it is the playing time. At 79:42, there likely isn’t
even a quickly-played Grieg miniature that could have been
packed onto this disc.
Another reason for this disc to stand
out is its sound quality. One simply couldn’t expect any
of the pieces represented here to sound any better than
they do here. This, to some extent, is a double-edged sword
in that at times the impact of the music is blunted — a
sacrifice perhaps made intentionally to show all of these
works as gorgeous, rather than as musical statements.
Case in point is Aase’s Death in the first Peer Gynt
suite. When the strings swell, when the death of Aase is
imminent, when the music is supposed to dig at you
- after all, someone is dying - the piece sounds
simply, well, gorgeous.
One other thing about the Peer Gynt suites,
though they are most often recorded as strictly instrumental
pieces, they suffer in impact without vocals. I was introduced
to these pieces in an early-eighties performance on Philips
of the San Francisco Symphony and Chorus with Elly Ameling.
Hearing this present version simply leaves me flat.
Overall, this disc offers very good performances,
tastefully done, with a sound quality that is simply superb.
Be prepared, however, for interpretations that are light
on emotional impact.