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Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907)
Piano Concerto in A minor op. 16 [28:54]
Ballade in G minor op. 24 [19:15]
Lyric Pieces: Homesickness op. 57/6 [04:51], Homeward op. 62/6 [02:48], Cradle Song op. 68/5 [03:00], Wedding Day at Troldhaugen op. 65/6 [06:18], Evening in the Mountains op. 68/4 [03:50], Remembrances op. 71/7 [01:56]
Leif Ove Andsnes (piano)
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/Mariss Jansons (concerto)
rec. December 2001, Drawing Room, Edvard Grieg Museum, Troldhaugen (Lyric Pieces), 20-22 December 2002, Philharmonie, Berlin (Concerto), 15 July 2007, Henry Wood Hall, London (Ballade)
EMI CLASSICS 3943992 [71:24]

For a long time I belonged to that awkward fraternity which believed that, if you wanted to hear the Grieg Piano Concerto at its best, you had to forsake modern sound and go back to Lipatti. British critics tended to add Solomon and Curzon to the list but I never got all that excited about them. However, I don’t see why anybody should not be perfectly happy with the present version. In spite of a certain amount of hype – climbing up and down mountains in search of Grieg – Andsnes does not ostensibly attempt to say anything new about the work. This would probably be impossible. However, he says all the old things as well as they’ve ever been said and with great freshness. The dance themes are lively and sparkling, the romantic melodies beautifully tender without sentimentality. With like-minded support from Jansons I am happy to make this my preferred version.
The Ballade is Grieg’s most ambitious work for solo piano and not everyone has hailed it as a success. The 14 variations often seem to sit alongside one another rather than build up. Andsnes solves this by appearing to improvise the music on the spot. By this, I don’t mean that he takes great liberties. In fact, what makes the performance so successful is that he seems completely free within an actually highly disciplined approach. He extracts considerable range of colour from his instrument and his control of texture is masterly.
The Drawing Room of the Edvard Grieg Museum – and Grieg’s own piano – makes for a slightly artificial sound quality in the following group of Lyric Pieces. The quality of the playing ensures that you quickly adjust. Andnes plays the slower pieces lovingly without drooling over them, the quicker ones have a real sense of joy. He doesn’t attempt to fill them with expression that isn’t there, but he doesn’t miss anything that is there and gets more out of them than most of us can.
In short, if you like the idea of coupling the popular Piano Concerto, not with another popular piano concerto but with a further exploration of Grieg’s relationship with the piano – a very wholesome sort of thing to want – you couldn’t find a better disc.
Christopher Howell


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