Forgotten Records is a French label dedicated to restoring some
often less well known recordings, many on smaller labels, to
the marketplace. Some, it’s true, have been reissued in the
interim but by no means many; I’ve had a look at their catalogue
and there are some enticing things in store. This latest disc
is a little different inasmuch as some of the performances were
originally recorded on 78 by Tono, then reissued on early LPs
by Mercury and Decca.
And much more recently Danacord has reissued the Symphonic Dances
Op.64 and Norwegian Dances Op.35 in the third of their ‘Scandinavian
Classics’ reissues [Danacord
DACOCD 697-98]. So they at least have earned increased exposure.
Forgotten Records has had the sensible idea, however, to concentrate
on a one-disc, all-Grieg programme presided over in full by
the conductor Erik Tuxen. Tuxen is a by-word for excellence
in this repertoire and he doesn’t disappoint.
The Symphonic Dances were recorded in 1952 and are powerful
examples of his conductorial style. The brass is almost Russian
in its fulsome contributions, the string marshalling passionately
direct and sweeping, and yet Tuxen ensures sufficient rubati
to bring necessary relaxation. He brings a genuinely ‘grazioso’
phrasing to the second dance but at a genuine Allegretto too,
so tempo considerations are not compromised. The third dance
is bright and exciting, the brass glistening darkly, whilst
there’s gruff, brassy authority in the last of the four. The
Norwegian Dances were recorded at the same session, and are
more genial, bluffer and less ripely characterised works, though
performed no less attractively by Tuxen and his galvanized forces.
The troll-like first contrasts with the pertly projected second,
and so too the March dynamism of the third.
The Lyric Suite was recorded the following year. Tuxen really
draws some strong Tchaikovskian depth from the strings here,
at points seeming to make analogues with the older composer’s
Serenade for Strings. The wind writing is beautifully floated
in the Allegretto marciale, which sets up the tautly
driving finale very nicely indeed. As ever these are personality-rich
performances, idiomatically performed, and excellently recorded.
Don’t on any account overlook the final selection, the op.34
Melodies. The first is the most explicitly Tchaikovskian of
all, and the second a famous beauty, much arranged.
Tuxen and Grieg could hardly be bettered at the time in this
repertoire. The overlap with Danacord may make you hesitate;
it depends really whether you want a Scandinavian compilation
series, such as Danacord presents, or whether you’re majoring
on Tuxen. I can certainly think of far worse things in which