Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907)
Symfoniske Danse (Symphonic Dances), Op. 64 (1898) [25:24]
Norske Danse (Norwegian Dances), Op. 35 (orch. Hans Sitt) (1887) [15:46]
Lyric Suite Op.54 (orch. 1904) [15:27]
Two Elegiac Melodies Op.34 (1881) [9:24]

Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra/Erik Tuxen
rec. Concert Hall of Danish Radio, Copenhagen, 10-11 May 1952 (Symphonic and Norwegian Dances). 1953 (Lyric Suite) and 1954 (Elegiac Melodies)

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 to major.

Jonathan Woolf

Tuxen and Grieg could hardly be bettered at the time in this repertoire.