Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907) Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 16 [30:50]
Twelve Lyric Pieces [39:12]
Javier Perianes (piano)
BBC Symphony Orchestra/Sakari Oramo
rec. 5-6 June 2014, Teldex Studios, Berlin (Lyric Pieces) and 24 October 2014, live, Barbican Centre, London (concerto) HARMONIA MUNDI HMC902205 [70:02]
Javier Perianes is a thoughtful, lyrical pianist whose regular appearances on Harmonia Mundi are fully deserved. He is the kind of performer who shines in Schubert, for his strengths are his carefully-considered interpretations and great tonal beauty. As it turns out, these are also assets in his Grieg.
The Grieg concerto gets a fairly relaxed performance, similar in tempo to what you’d hear from Sviatoslav Richter, for example but “relaxed” does not mean unemotional. Perianes is thrillingly powerful at the very start, builds the cadenza as well as anybody, and is an amiable performer throughout. He emphasizes the beauty and inspiration of Grieg’s melodies, his attention not on the virtuosity of the moment but the power of the work as a whole. There are a couple times when Sakari Oramo and the BBC Symphony seem to lag, including a spot near the beginning of the finale, but in general they are as fine as always.
The performances of Lyric Pieces share Perianes’ usual strengths, which is to say, they are irresistible. Luckily, instead of giving us a handful of encores, he plays forty minutes of them. His emphasis here is on a more ‘interventionist’ approach, with the pianist lingering on pretty phrases, adding eloquent pauses, and in general indulging himself. Perianes has good taste, or else this could have gone badly wrong. Instead, he moves the Lyric Pieces closer to the world of Debussy than you might expect. Grieg-as-Debussy is a pretty thing. Grieg-as-Grieg is also good, though, and for that I recommend instead Lyric Pieces albums by Janina Fialkowska or Hakon Austbų (Brilliant Classics 94046).
In sum, this is a good album, but one which is primarily for fans of the kind of pianism Perianes practices. If you prefer straightforward to fancied-up, look elsewhere but if an hour of wallowing in some of the prettiest sounds a piano can make sounds good, try this. Especially given the state-of-the-art sound of Teldex Studios, used in the solo music. It’s still good in the live concerto recording, but the piano is very closely miked, and the Barbican isn’t the world’s most flattering acoustic space.