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Decca Phase 4
The Complete Songs - Volume 7
Five Songs without Opus Number:
Prinsessen, EG133 [2:55] Claras Sang,
EG124 [1:25] Osterlied, EG146 [1:54] Morgenbøn
paa Skolen, EG139 [0:59] Den blonde Pige (1st
version), EG130 [4:15]
Bergtekne, Op. 32 [4:18]
Three Songs without Opus Number:
Møte [2:40] Suk, EG134 [2:53] Den blonde
Pige (2nd version), EG138 [2:48]
Fem Digte af Otto Benzon, Op. 69:
I. Der gynger en Båd på Bølge [2:46] II. Til min
Dreng [3:29] III. Ved Moders Grav [2:34]
IV. Snegl, Snegl! [3:12] V. Drømme [3:32]
Fem Digte af Otto Benzon, Op. 70:
I. Eros [2:55] II. Jeg lever et Liv I Længsel [2:36]
III. Lys Nat [1:55] IV. Se dig for [1:53]
V. Digtervise [4:06]
Four Songs without Opus Number:
Ragnhild, EG181; Den syngende Menighed,
EG122; Valgsang, EG149; To a Devil, EG154
(mezzo); Roger Vignoles (piano)
rec. March 2007, Kuusankoski Hall, Finland
Texts and English translations enclosed
BIS BISCD1757 [68:38]
100th Anniversary of Edvard Grieg’s death last
year generated a flood of recordings. BIS, who have specialised
in complete oeuvres, were in the forefront with a number
of orchestral issues, released during the last few years
and culminating in 2007. Their complete survey of the Norwegian
master’s songs has, on the other hand, been quite slow in
the making, the first volume recorded and issued as early
as 1993. I bought it when it was new, having just heard Monica
Groop live for the first time, and was immensely impressed.
The disc contained some of Grieg’s best known songs: Jeg
elsker dig, En Svane, Med en Vandlilje and the cycle Haugtussa,
Op. 67, which is one of his most important late works. For
some reason I never invested in the following volumes, though
I have quite a distinguished collection of his songs anyway.
Coming back to Grieg and Ms Groop fourteen years on and the
concluding volume in the series was an encounter which produced
slightly mixed feelings.
be honest there is something of the scrapings about the material
here. Many songs are youthful essays. Den syngende Menighed,
to a text by the Danish pastor N.F.S. Grundtvig, was composed
in 1860, when Grieg was only seventeen. Some of them were
published only posthumously in 1908 and some reached the
public only in Edvard Grieg’s Collected Works (GGA) in 1991
or 1995 (they appeared in different volumes). This is not
to say that they are of little value. Great composers are
of interest also in their minor works and works of their
youth are important to give a fuller picture of their development.
the first collection the first two songs, Prinsessen and Claras
sang are both settings of Bjørnson, whose poetry inspired
Grieg on many occasions, and they are in Grieg’s easily recognisable
folk-tone idiom. Morgenbøn paa Skolen is simple and
hymn-like while Den blonde Pige – Bjørnson again – are
heard here in two different versions, and very different
they are. In the second group Møte stands out through
a nice melody. This is incidentally a first version of Op.
67 No 4, i.e. the fourth song in Haugtussa, which
Monica Groop recorded so long ago.
the two groups Op. 69 and 70, Grieg’s last collections, written
in Copenhagen in 1900, the composer wrote that they ‘are
totally cosmopolitan’. There is more than a grain of truth
in that. The second song of Op. 69, Til min Dreng,
is certainly Nordic in tone, but the rest is in a more generalized
Central European vein. There is power and drama in Der
gynger en Båd på Bølge and one can hear the North Sea
roaring. The Op. 70 songs are also powerful, only
No. III and IV are poetic, especially the nocturnal Lys
Nat. We also note that the piano part is uncommonly active
and independent in several of them; listen to the marching Digtervise.
the remaining songs Valgsang was originally composed
fore male choir and there is incontestable nationalist pathos
here. It was written in late 1893 – Bjørnson’s poem was published
in Verdens Gang on 8 December that year and the text
reflects the hostile attitude towards Sweden at the time.
The tension continued to grow and eventually resulted in
the disbanding of the union in 2005. The ironical and jolly – listen
to the piano accompaniment – To a Devil was composed
to a text by Otto Benzon, who obviously wrote it in English.
This is one of the songs that was not published until 1991.
one well known song and by most commentators hailed as one
of Grieg’s masterpieces, is Den Bergtekne, a setting
of a traditional text. It was conceived for voice and orchestra
and intended for a male singer, but Grieg also prepared a
version for voice and piano, although it was never published.
The piano version which was published was by Holger Dahl
and it was approved by Grieg.
Groop was born in Helsinki in Finland but comes from a Finland-Swedish
family, which means that Swedish is her first language. Being
Swedish speaking means that she with little effort masters
Norwegian and Danish as well so on linguistic ground this
is the authentic thing. She has always been a vivid and accomplished
interpreter of songs. Now in her late forties – she actually
turned fifty in April this year – she is as responsive as
ever to the texts and her interpretations are well considered
and expressive. Since I last heard her in the flesh a few
years ago her vibrato has widened marginally and under pressure
it might be annoying to some listeners but her care over
nuances and her insight still make her an excellent Grieg
interpreter. Grieg’s favourite singer – of his songs – was
his wife Nina, but it wasn’t the voice in itself that he
admired; it was her way of employing it to convey what was
in the songs. Hers was a light lyric soprano but Grieg also
admired the international Swedish born dramatic soprano Ellen
Gulbranson (1863–1947) for the same reasons. Monica Groop
is neither a light soprano nor a Brünnhilde but I believe
Edvard Grieg would have liked her way with his songs too.
Some of the bloom from earlier years is inevitably gone but
so much else is retained and she has the power to make even
the most dramatic songs of Op. 69 and 70 tell. With Roger
Vignoles at the piano we can rest assured that the accompaniments
are up to the requirements and the recording is exemplary.
A good essay by Rune Andersson and texts and translations
are further attractions.
may not be an essential buy for the general song lover but
there is a lot of interest also to non-specialists and to
Grieg collectors it is a must.
Gerard Hoffnung CDs
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