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]
(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
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
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
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.
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