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
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
For a long time I belonged to that awkward fraternity which
believed that, if you wanted to hear the Grieg Piano Concerto at
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.
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