Aureole etc.




Golden Age singers

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If it’s the Czech works you’re after, do not hesitate

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

 

AVAILABILITY 

Buywell Just Classical

Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907)
Holberg Suite Op. 40 [20:36]
Two Elegiac Melodies Op. 34 [6:52]
Two Nordic Melodies Op. 63 [11:12]
Death of Aase (from Peer Gynt Op. 23) [3:30]
Ceremonial March (from Sigurd Jorsalfar, Op. 56) [8:53]
Lyric Pieces Op. 54 [17:04]*
Wedding Day at Troldhaugen [5:40]**
National Philharmonic Orchestra/Willi Boskovsky
London Symphony Orchestra/Stanley Black*
London Proms Symphony Orchestra/Sir Charles Mackerras**
rec. Kingsway Hall, London, December 1974; *May 1969 Decca Studio 3, West Hampstead, London; **London 1960. DDD
DECCA ELOQUENCE 476 8494 [74:22]

 

 

Eloquence, Decca’s budget re-release series, has been mining the vaults for performances that haven’t seen recent attention. Here we have a collection of Grieg’s orchestral works in recording sessions spanning sixteen years.  Most of these pieces are with the National Philharmonic Orchestra under Willi Boskovsky.  My copy of the Holberg, performed sixteen years later with Järvi and the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra on Deutsche Grammophon, is much superior in sound quality, but there are reasons here for the re-release of Boskovsky’s Holberg. In the slower movements, which are, overall, longer in playing time - the Sarabande over a minute longer and the Air almost a minute - which gives an expansiveness to these pieces that compensates for the drier sound of the strings.  As was typical for the time, the stereo separation is wider than more modern recordings, which leaves the cello section crammed somewhat uncomfortably into one corner of my living room when they take over the melody line.

Grieg’s line of sight was, considering the volume of his output, not as often directed toward orchestral music as to, say, solo piano.  Many of the pieces here on this disc were piano pieces, either before or shortly after their orchestral incarnations.  Grieg tended not to think terribly highly of his pieces for orchestra.  His famous comment using “manure” with regard to Peer Gynt being one example, but, Grieg’s misgivings aside, the — to his mind perhaps overly folksy — music to that play hasn’t achieved great popularity without artistic reason.  One of the gems is Aase’s Death.  Here we have more of a sense of great sadness and beauty that was missing in the performance on Regis of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra with James Judd (see review).  My preference is still for my first love, the San Francisco Orchestra with Edo de Waart on Philips.  Boskovsky goes out in suitable pomp and circumstance with the triumphal march from the rarely-performed incidental music to the forgotten play Sigurd Jorsalfar, which Grieg penned before Peer Gynt. Contrasted with a lyric theme, the march is an enjoyable curtain-closer that, to these ears, is no great innovation on triumphal marches.

Stanley Black next takes the stage with the LSO for the Op. 54 lyric pieces.  Recorded in 1969, these show their age slightly more, with tape noise — and a very prominently-placed harp — but these performances have passion and grip, the lamenting first piece, Shepherd’s Boy, is a standout in this regard, with great dynamic control and power.  The Norwegian Rustic March that follows has a better sound; the strings coming across well here, though the brass seems somewhat compressed.  The stereo separation is less distracting than for the Boskovsky sessions that open the disc.

Sir Charles Mackerras closes the disc with the London Proms Symphony and the orchestration of Wedding Day at Troldhaugen.  This is the one piece here not orchestrated by the composer.  The oldest recording in this collection by almost a decade, the sound fares better than the Boskovsky-led pieces that open the disc.  The sound is fuller and less brittle, with more resonance and presence from the basses.

The price for this release is quite attractive.  Other more recent recordings, such as the aforementioned Deutsche Grammophon disc with Järvi, pack more punch and have crisper sound, but the performances here are quite enjoyable and are worth a listen.

David Blomenberg

AVAILABILITY 

Buywell Just Classical

 

 


 



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