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Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907)
The Complete Music for Piano

Eva Knardahl, Love Derwinger(piano)
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Kjell Ingebretsen
Norrköping Symphony Orchestra/Jun’ichi Hirokami
rec: 1977-1980, Nacka Aula, Sweden (CDs 1-10); December 1978, Henry Wood Hall, London, England (Piano Concerto); March 1993, Linnköping Concert Hall, Sweden, and May 1993, Nybrokajen, Sweden (CDs 11-12). ADD/DDD
BIS CD1626/28 [12 CDs: 65:21 + 66:54 + 62:05 + 64:47 + 66:29 + 70:00 + 64:52 + 65:56 + 72:24 + 65:30 + 62:14 + 60:34]



Norwegian-born pianist Eva Knardahl, who died in late 2006, had a very long career. Well-known in her native Norway, she made her debut at the age of 12 performing with the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra. Throughout her life, she recorded a variety of works for piano, paying special attention to the works of Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg. This box set contains 12 CDs, covering all of Grieg’s compositions for piano.
 
Knardahl performs on the first ten discs in the set, and Love Derwinger is the pianist for the recordings on discs 11 and 12. This is a repackaging of individual discs that were released over the years, with the Knardahl recordings made between 1977 and 1980, and the Derwinger recordings dating from 1993. It seems unfair that only Knardahl gets her name on the front of the box; Derwinger is credited only on the back. Knaredahly’s recordings were issued first on LP and then reissued on CD in 1987.
 
The set contains a comprehensive booklet in English, Swedish, German and French, nearly 180 pages long - about 30 pages of text for each language. Fortunately, unlike many other Bis booklets, this one printed in a font that does not require a magnifying glass to read.
 
Grieg's piano music is one of the monuments of keyboard music, and probably deserves to be regarded much more highly. While not as intense as Beethoven's piano sonatas, or the works of Chopin or Liszt; while not as lofty as the vast output of Bach or that of Mozart, Grieg's piano music combines not only a unique impressionistic approach to the piano, but also elements of folk music from his native Norway. On top of that, many of the tunes in the short pieces are so engaging that you'll find yourself humming them.
 
Grieg's piano works are mostly made up of short pieces. His 66 lyric pieces, were composed throughout his career but there are also collections of Norwegian folk songs, peasant dances and other works. With just one piano sonata, and one piano concerto - but what a concerto! - his oeuvre is largely one of miniatures. But the size of these works in no way detracts from their interest and force. One can simply listen to the first of the Lyric Pieces, Arietta, to understand just how subtle Grieg's compositional style is. In a simple-sounding ballad of just over a minute, he manages not only to paint a melancholy picture, but also demonstrates that his harmonies are unique and unforgettable. This is a brief piano piece that is more a song without words than a statement of keyboard music.
 
The three discs of lyric pieces span his entire career, so listening to them in order offers not just a journey through melody, but also an opportunity to listen to how Grieg's style grew over time. His Op. 4 no. 3, Melody, has an intense, melodramatic sound, as does, for example, Op. 54, no. 1, Shepherd's Boy, which is a dark work. Some pieces have such lightness that one can only smile when listening to them. In a way, however, it is fitting that the final work in this series, Op. 71, no. 7, Forgetting, is a reworking of one of the earliest lyric pieces, Waltz, Op. 12 no. 2. Grieg comes full circle with this last lyric piece, showing the subtle ways in which his music evolved.
 
While there is pleasure enough in listening to the progression of Grieg's style through the first three discs of lyric pieces, one can start again with disc 4, which begins another examination of Grieg's career in chronological order. While it makes sense to group the lyric pieces on the first three discs - which also corresponds to the original release of these recordings on individual discs - it might have been more logical to reorder all the music so the twelve discs flowed in chronological sequence, rather than having two "sets" within the box.
 
Beginning with the earliest pieces, his Op. 1, Four Piano Pieces, his Poetic Tone-Pictures (Op. 3) and so on, the set traverses his output. In spite of the different names given to groups of works, Grieg's tone does not vary a great deal. All the pieces cover a range of tones from melancholy to exuberant, from bittersweet to pastoral.
 
An exception can be found in his sets of Norwegian folk songs, where he arranged the raw material of his country's music heritage for solo piano. These helped gain him greater notice, and are one of the finest examples of folk-music brought into the concert hall. There are dozens of such works, many of them tiny gems, others more substantial.
 
Grieg also wrote one piano sonata, which is somewhat different, on the surface, from his smaller works. A true romantic sonata, it nevertheless features his now familiar song-like approach to music, especially in its second movement. This sonata was and is often performed, yet it is surprising that he did not write another. He remained more interested in his miniatures though he also wrote orchestral and chamber works. In the same manner, he composed just the one piano concerto, which is an extremely popular and oft-performed work. It is played here by Knardahl, with the original version also performed by Love Derwinger.
 
One work that stands out is the Ballade in G minor, Op. 24, the longest amongst Grieg's pianistic output at just over 20 minutes in this recording. This comprises a series of 14 variations on a Norwegian folk song. Grieg composed this piece after the deaths of his parents in the autumn of 1875. He was overcome with grief, and that comes through in this densely emotional work Knardahl plays it with her emotions at her fingertips.
 
Some of the pieces are transcriptions from Grieg's larger orchestral works, such as Peer Gynt, Sigurd Jorsalfar, and the Holberg Suite. Grieg very much enjoyed making piano reductions of these works, and his transcriptions shed interesting light on the larger works from which they derive.
 
The last two discs contain works not published during Grieg's lifetime. Whether the early version of the Piano Concerto, alternate versions of a few works, or some very early pieces that he never deemed interesting enough for publication, these two discs in essence offer the extras or out-takes of Grieg's piano output.
 
Across the 787 minutes of this set, I have to confess to a preference for Grieg's shorter pieces over the piano sonata, concerto and Ballade. From almost any time in his career, from his lyric pieces to the Norwegian folk songs, from his "short pieces" to his transcriptions of his own songs, dipping into this astounding range of work is never disappointing. In the same way that Schubert rarely wrote a mediocre lied, Grieg has very few weak piano pieces. You can dip into these works at any time and the gods of shuffle will pull out an interesting juxtaposition of pieces that, in spite of when they were composed, fit together organically. There is so much here - again, the comparison to Schubert's lieder comes to mind - that one can explore these works for years and never truly get to the bottom of them. While the last two discs contain some works that are, perhaps, minor, the remainder of this set is a collection of gems that sparkle from any angle.
 
The recording quality of these discs is excellent, and the piano sounds present without too much reverb, though the Derwinger recordings are a bit hollower than the Knardahl discs. The recording hall adds a different type of reverb, and Derwinger plays a Steinway to Knardahl’s Bösendorfer. For an interesting recording, you might also want to listen to Leif Ove Andsnes' selection of Lyric Pieces played on Grieg's own piano. Given the price and completeness of this set, and the quality of the performances, there is little reason for you to hesitate. Even if you've only sampled Grieg's works in the past, this budget set is a fine reason to discover the full range of his piano compositions. Should you not want all this Grieg, however, the individual discs are still available from BIS, and the three CDs of Lyric Pieces would be a great purchase.
 
Kirk McElhearn

 

 
Complete track list
CD1 - Vol. 1 (Knardahl) [65:21] BIS-CD-104. Jan 1987
Lyric Pieces Book 1 Op. 12
Arietta; Waltz; Watchman's song; Fairy Dance; Folksong; Norwegian; Album Leaf; National Song
Lyric Pieces Book 2 Op. 38
Berceuse; Folksong; Melody; Halling; Springdans; Elegy; Waltz; Canon
Lyric Pieces Book 3 Op. 43
Butterfly; Solitary Traveller; In my native Country; Little bird; Erotikon; To Spring;
Lyric Pieces Book 4 Op. 47
Valse-Impromptu; Album Leaf; Melody; Halling; Melancholy; Springdans; Elegy
CD2 - Vol. 2 (Knardahl) [66:54] BIS-CD-105 Jan 1987
Lyric Pieces Book 5 Op. 54
Shepherd's boy; Norwegian March; March of the Dwarfs; Notturno; Scherzo; Bellringing
Lyric Pieces Book 6 Op. 57
Vanished days; Gade; Illusion; Secret; She dances; Homesickness
Lyric Pieces Book 7 Op. 62
Sylphe; Gratitude; French serenade; Brooklet; Phantom; Homeward
CD3 - Vol. 3 (Knardahl) [62:05] BIS-CD-106 Jan 1987
Lyric Pieces Book 8, Op. 65
From Early Years; Peasant's Song; Melancholy; Salon; Ballad; Wedding-Day At Troldhaugen
Lyric Pieces Book 9, Op. 68
Sailor's Song; Grandmother's Minuet; At Your Feet; Evening In The Mountains; At The Cradle; Valse Melancolique
Lyric Pieces Book 10, Op. 71
Once Upon A Time; Summer Eve; Puck; Peace Of The Woods; Halling; Gone; Remembrances
CD4 - Vol. 4 (Knardahl) [64:47] BIS-CD-107 Jan 1987
Four Piano Pieces Op. 1
Allegro con leggierezza; Non allegro e molto espressivo; Mazurka; Allegro con moto; Poetic Tone-Pictures Op. 3
Allegro, ma non troppo; Allegro cantabile; Con moto; Andante con sentimento; Allegro moderato; Allegro scherzando
Humoresques Op. 6
Tempo di valse; Tempo di menuetto ed energico; Allegretto con grazia; Allegro alla buria
Sonata for piano solo Op. 7
Allegro moderato; Andante molto; Alla menuetto ma poco più lento; Finale: molto allegro
Funeral march: Rikard Nordraak in memoriam
CD5 - Vol. 5 (Knardahl) [66:29] BIS-CD-108 Jan 1987
Norwegian Folksongs & Dances Op. 27
Springdans; The swain; Springdans; Nils Tallefjorden; Dance from Jolster; Wedding tune; Hailing; The pig; Religious song; Wooer's song; Heroic song; Solfager ant the snake-king; Wedding tune; I sing with a sorrowful heart; Last saturday evening; I know a little maiden; The cleg and the fly; Stumping dance; Holje Dale; Hailing; Th woman from setesdal; Cow-call; Peasant song; Wedding tune; The raven's wedding; Scenes from Folk life Op. 19
Mountain dance; Wedding procession; From the carnival
Four Album leaves Op. 28
Allegro con moto; Allegretto espressivo; Vivace; Andantino serioso - Allegro giocoso
Improvisation on 2 Norwegian folksongs Op. 29
Allegro con moto; Andante
CD6 - Vol. 6 (Knardahl) [70:00] BIS-CD-109 Jan 1987
Ballade G-Dur Op. 24
Peer Gynt Suite No. 1 Op. 46
Morgenstemning; Aases Død; Anitras Dans; Dovregubbens Hall
Peer Gynt Suite No. 2 Op. 55
Bruderovet. Ingrids Klage; Arabisk Dans; Peer Gynts Hjemfart. Stormfull Aften På Havet; Solveigs Sang
Three Orchestral Pieces From 'Sigurd Jorsalfar' Op. 56
Forspill: Ved Mannjevningen; Intermezzo: Borghilds Drøn; Hyldningsmarsj
CD7 - Vol. 7 (Knardahl) [64:52] BIS-CD-110 Jan 1987
Holberg Suite Op. 40
Prelude; Sarabande; Gavotte; Air; Rigaudon
Two Elegiac Melodies Op. 34
The wounded Heart; Last spring
Waltz-Caprices Op. 37
Tempo di valse moderato; Tempo di valse
Olav Trygvason Op. 50
Prayer; Temple dance
Two Nordic Melodies Op. 63
In Folk Style; Cow call; Halling
CD8 - Vol. 8 (Knardahl) [65:56] BIS-CD-111 Jan 1987
Norwegian Folksongs, Op. 66
Cow-call; It is the greatest foolishness; A King ruled in the East; The Sir Dale Song; It was in my youth; Call and Lullabye; Lullabye; Call; It was a little lad; Tomorrow you shall marry; There stood two girls; Ranveig; A little grey man; In Ola Valley, In Ola Tarn; Lullaby; Little Astrid; Lullaby; I wander in deep thought; Gjendine's Lullaby
Song Arrangements, Op. 41
Cradle Song; Little Haakon; I love thee; She is so white; The Princess; To Spring
Song Arrangements, Op. 52
Mother's Grief; The first Meeting; You cannot grasp the wave's eternal course; Solveig's Song; Love; Old Mother
CD9 - Vol. 9 (Knardahl) [72:24] BIS-CD-113 Jan 1987
Slåtter, Op. 72
Giboen's Bridal March; Jon Væstafæs Springdance; Bridal March from Telemark; Halling from The Fairy Hill; Springdance From Os ; Gangar After My Llarguten; Halling; Bridal March After My Llarguten; Nils Rekves Halling; Knut Luråsens Halling I; Knut Luråsens Halling II; Springdance After My Llarguten; Havar Giboen's Dream At Oterholt Bridge; The Bridal Procession Of The Goblins At Voss; The Bride From Skuldal; The Girls From Kivledal; Gangar
Stemninger (Moods) Op. 73
Resignation; Scherzo-Impromptu; Night Ride; Folk Tune; Hommage A Chopin; Students' Serenade; Mountain Tune
Three Piano Pieces, Op. Posth
Tempest Clouds; Procession Of The Gnomes; In The Whirl Of The Dance
CD10 - Vol. 10 (Knardahl) [65:30] BIS-CD-113 Jan 1987
Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 16
Allegro molto moderato; Adagio; Allegro moderato molto e marcato
Norske Danser for firhendig klavr (Norwegian Dances for piano 4 hands), Op. 35
Allegro marcato; Allegretto tranquillo e grazioso; Allegro moderato alla marcia; Allegro molto Romanser (2 Romances), Op. 53
Norsk (Norwegian); Det forste mote (The First Meeting)
Norske Fjeldmelodier (6 Norwegian Mountain Melodies), Op. 112
Springdans (Rustic Dance); Baadn-laat - Vuggevise (Lullaby); Springdans (Rustic Dance); Sjugur aa trollbrura - Folkevise (Popular Ditty); Halling; Guten aa gjenta paa fjoshellen (The Lad and the Lass on the Barn Floor)
CD11 - Vol. 11 (Derwinger) [62:14] BIS-CD-619 June 1993
Piano Concerto in A minor, Op.16 (original 1868/1872 version)
Allegro molto moderato; Adagio; Allegro moderato molto e marcato
Larviks-Polka (1858)
23 Easy Pieces - Smaastykker
I. Allegro Agitato; II. Allegro desiderio; III. Molto allegro vivace; IV. Andante; quasi allegretto; V. Allegro Assai; VI. Allegro con moto; VII. Andante, quasi allegretto; VIII. Prelude. Allegro assai; IX. Andante, moderato; X. Andante Con Gravita; XI. Vivace; XII. Largo con estro poetica; XIII. Allegretto con moto; XIV. Allegretto con moto; XV. Prelude with 2 Voices. Con passione; XVI. Allegro assai, quasi prestoq; XVII. Molto adagio religioso; XVIII. Allegro molto; XIX. Andante moderato; XX. Allegro vivace; XXI. Andante moderato; XXII. Nicht zu schnell, ruhing; XXIII. Assai allegro furioso
CD12 - Vol. 12 (Derwinger) [60:34] BIS-CD-620 June 1993
Tre Klaverstykker, EG 105
Allegro agitato; Allegretto; Allegro molto e vivace, quasi Presto
Agitato, EG 106 (Mis)
Ved Halfdan Kjerulfs Minnestotte (Mis)
Poco adagio; Andante
Ten Songs
No. 8: Margretes Vuggesang; No. 14: Norsk Sjomandssang; No. 17: "Fremad!"; No. 38: Ungbirken; No. 57: Bjorneskytten; No. 71: Min Tankes Tanke; No. 90: Vandring i Skoven; No. 95: To brune Ojne; No. 113: Serenade til Welhaven; No. 150: Det frste Mode
From 'Peer Gynt'
Forspill til 3. akt. Aases Dod; Arabisk Dans; Anitras Dans; Solveigs Sang; Dans av Dovregubbens Datter
Albumblad, EG 109
Bojarernes Indtogsmarsch, EG 183

 

 

 


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