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Edvard GRIEG (1843–1907)
Lyrical Travels With Edvard Grieg
Det var en gang (Once Upon a Time) Op. 71 No. 1 [4:25]
Gangar, Op. 54 No. 2 [3:38]
Sommerfugl (Butterfly), Op. 43 No. 1 [1:48]
Notturno, Op. 54 No. 4 [4:00]
Folkevise (Folk Song) Op. 38 No. 2 [1:34]
Halöling, Op. 38 No. 4 [1:40]
Gjaetergut (Shepherd Boy) Op. 54 No. 1 [3:56]
Arietta, Op. 12 No. 1 [1:17]
Gade, Op. 57 No. 2 [3:27]
Fra ungdomsdagene (From Early Years) Op. 65 No. 1 [5:20]
Bryllupsdag på Troldhaugen (Wedding Day at Troldhaugen) Op. 65 No. 6 [6:01]
Ensom vandrer (Lonely Wanderer) Op. 43 No. 2 [1:53]
Aften i høyfjellet (Evening in the Mountains) Op. 68 No. 4 [3:06]
Bådnlåt (At the Cradle) Op. 68 No. 5 [2:48]
Småtroll (Puck) Op. 71 No. 3 [1:54]
Takk (Gratitude) Op. 62 No. 2 [3:53]
Hjemad (Homeward) Op. 62 No. 6 [2:54]
Klokkeklang (Bell Ringing) Op. 54 No. 6 [3:35]
Liv Glaser (Érard grand piano/London 1853)
rec. 27-29 November 2006, Jar Church, Norway
SIMAX PSC1291 [57:30]

By contrast with that other Nordic giant, Sibelius, Grieg was in the main a miniaturist, who was at his most personal in his songs and piano music. Many of the songs were composed with his wife, Nina Hagerup, in mind. The piano music was written primarily for himself to interpret. It is true that he wrote larger-scale works as well: everybody knows his piano concerto and his three violin sonatas, the cello sonata and some other works are often played. However he withdrew his symphony and the opera project with Bjørnson never got beyond a couple of scenes. A recent BIS disc (see review) indicates that he probably had the measure for a work on that scale but he probably felt most at home in the more intimate format of song and piano pieces. His ten volumes of Lyriske stykker (Lyrical Pieces) in toto sixty-six pieces, might be regarded as the essence of Grieg. Not everybody agrees of course and they have been frowned upon “as sugary, salon music of no particular significance” as Liv Glaser puts it in her liner-notes to this issue. Even as open-minded and gentle a person as Claude Debussy was clearly condescending. But penetrating the many-faceted world of Grieg’s piano writing reveals that there is so much to admire and many detractors had probably heard a mere handful of the pieces, shunning them because of their popularity.
Liv Glaser probably knows the music better than anyone else, having been familiar with these pieces from early childhood. She was in fact the first pianist to make a complete recording of the Lyrical Pieces for RCA, almost 45 years ago. Returns to them, she has picked those that meant most to her; not an easy task. In the space available it wasn’t possible to cover every type of mood so she chose to select numbers from various groups, including music from most of Grieg’s mature life. Here she plays an Érard grand from 1853, the sound of which differs markedly from a modern concert grand. Her compatriot Leif-Ove Andsnes recorded a similar disc some years ago on Grieg’s own instrument but the Érard produces quite different sonorities. It is a drier, crisper sound which seems to lay the music bare, not smoothing it out. The general impression is that there is more air between the notes. I could call it more staccato but that is not really an apt word in this context. In 1990 Glaser returned to studies, this time with Paul Badura-Skoda in Vienna. This also involved studying original Mozart manuscripts. She also studied the forte piano with Malcolm Bilson so it comes as no surprise that she also approaches Grieg from an authentic point of view.
Liv Glaser’s approach is very satisfying. Some listeners will feel a sense of brusqueness but at the same time the music is presented to us through a more open, more honest, sound. Browsing through my notes I find that Sommerfugl (Butterfly) (tr. 3) is less streamlined, more fluttery than it is normally heard; still, I was brought up on Walter Gieseking’s reading. The Halling (tr. 6), a typically Norwegian dance, is rather aggressive; while on the other hand Fra ungdomsdagene(tr. 10) is lovely and – yes, quite uproarious.
Troldhaugen was Grieg’s home for 22 years, from 1885. Bryllupsdag på Troldhaugen (tr. 11) is, at least to Nordic listeners, one of the best known of his compositions. Today Troldhaugen is the site of the Edvard Grieg museum, and the graves of both Edvard and Nina Grieg are to be found there. Liv Glaser’s crescendo in this piece is magnificent. Among the other pieces on this disc Aften I høyfjellet (tr. 13) is a sparse composition, where the silences are just as important as the notes in depicting the loneliness. Bådnlåt (tr. 14) is a lullaby, where Liv Glaser works with small nuances. Overall this recital is remarkable for its restraint and its clarity. One of my favourites is Småtroll (Puck) (tr. 15) where the trolls stand out as nervous little creatures, scampering about like water-striders. Maybe the most exceptional piece is Klokkeklang (tr. 18), which has close similarities with Debussy’s La cathédrale engloutie; an interesting parallel given the Frenchman’s aversions to the Norwegian master.
I have loved this music for many years and I listened delightedly with new ears to these readings. The choice of instrument is one factor to be borne in mind but the unsentimental and very sensitive playing very much contributes to the overall excellence of this disc. I sincerely hope that Liv Glaser will be persuaded – if that is what’s needed – to record the remaining Lyrical Pieces. The recording team have caught the instrument to perfection.
Göran Forsling


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