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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]

 

Experience Classicsonline


This is a disc of consolidation. The Concerto was recorded back in 2002. Six of the Lyric Pieces were taped the previous year – but the Ballade is newly recorded. In any case Andsnes is no stranger to this repertoire as he’s recorded three books of the Lyric Pieces and back in 1990 tackled the Concerto for Virgin, coupled with the Liszt A major Concerto.

So we have here two reissues and a newly minted recording. I’ll save the Ballade for last as I think it undoubtedly the finest achievement here, indeed one of the best recordings of the piece ever committed to disc. About the Concerto however I have reservations. There’s strength and bravura in abundance – rather too much so at times – but there are also rather maudlin, even sentimentalised episodes that stretch the range of the concerto past breaking point. Jansons seems to have imbibed too strongly from Karajan’s Berlin cup as well – his conducting of the slow movement is presented in so swoony, exaggerated and arch a style that I found it difficult to listen through it to the many undoubted orchestral felicities served up by the Berlin Philharmonic. The finale certainly starts with a vengeance but the lyric heartland of the movement is just a touch overdone – and once more the concerto shakes on its axis. How surprising then that after all this the close is so blustery and lacking in nobility and grandeur. Splendidly recorded it may be but this is really not much of a contender and is inferior as a cohesive performance to the pianist’s previous outing of it on disc.

The Lyric Pieces are played on the composer’s own Steinway B in the Drawing Room of the Edvard Grieg Museum in Troldhaugen. The piano doesn’t have a great deal of colouration but Andsnes manages to draw from it a rich variety of inflections and subtleties. His playing is poetic and imaginative fusing the melancholic with the folkloric with just appreciation of the aptness of things. His playing remains unexaggerated – would that that had been the case with the Concerto – and whilst he doesn’t efface, say, Gilels in this selection he proves a worthy guide.

The Ballade however is what elevates this disc. It’s a superb performance of a very tricky piece to gauge. He plays the rather angular Norwegian folk tune with incipient introspection and a feeling of growing gravity. It’s a performance of commanding sweep and tremendous brio in the sprightlier dance variations and he manages to balance refinement with bravura, sure pacing with control of incident. If you’re familiar with the old recordings by Grainger or Godowsky, to take just two, you’ll still want to hear Andsnes who brings a focused, rather brooding insecure take to the Ballade, which is both plausible and successful. A terrific performance, in fact.

The Ballade recording is a must-hear for Grieg lovers, no question. The Lyric Pieces bear the imprint of the Master’s piano and are good. I cared little for the Concerto – but that Ballade will keep me coming back to Andsnes.

Jonathan Woolf

see also Review by Christopher Howell

 




 


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