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Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907)
Piano Concerto in A minor (1868) [30:48]
Lyric Pieces (1867-1901)
(see list below review)
Javier Perianes (piano)
BBC Symphony Orchestra/Sakari Oramo
rec. live, 24 October 2014, Barbican Centre, London (concerto); 5-6 June 2014, Teldex Studio, Berlin (Lyric Pieces)
HARMONIA MUNDI HMC902205 [69:53]

I wasn’t particularly excited about this disc when I first saw it (another Grieg Piano Concerto), but in the event found it enormously exciting and tremendous fun.  You get that right from the outset, when that opening flourish down the keyboard crackles with energy, more so than many, and then settles into a first subject that is by turns lyrical and skittish, before melting into a beautifully expressive second theme, the BBC cellos revelling in every phrase.  Oramo's direction of the orchestra is, in fact, one of the disc's glories, sensitive and responsive at every turn, with never a hint of the old War Horse sensibility. You hear that especially at the start of the development, which seems to rock itself comfortably until the storm clouds gather in the tumble towards the recapitulation, which is launched with equal sensitivity by Perianes.  He imbues the cadenza with unusual thoughtfulness, too, seeming to meander through various moods before the cascades of notes storm out of his fingers after that hail of descending octaves.

The slow movement is so gentle as to be almost rose-tinted, but it never sounds over-sentimentalised; just beautifully sustained. The string tone is utterly gorgeous at the opening, topped off by a beautifully crisp, confident horn cadence.  The piano then wanders in almost innocuously, before pulling the movement gently but decisively towards its treatment of the main theme.  This is heart-swelling stuff, and it bursts into a Halling that is exciting but also admirably precise in its inflection and the articulation of the piano notes.  The central section is lovely, and I admired the way the engineers could pick up the shimmering of the violins every bit as cleanly as they did the stratospheric flute solo. The piano then responds to it as though it were finishing its partner's sentence, and in the same way the piano seems to lead the orchestra into the final peroration, giving a showcase demonstration of how a concerto partnership should work. This is magnificent music-making, showing everyone at their best and ultimately in the service of the work. Oddly, however, and the concerto's only black mark, the track break between the second and third movements occurs in the wrong place, which seems very sloppy.

The selection of Lyric Pieces is every bit as good. Perianes chooses pieces that have an emphasis on beauty, simplicity and, often, directly appealing communication, but there’s nothing wrong with that, and they are very attractive. There is, for example, a haunted, wistful quality to the opening Kanon, with its interlude of almost Parisian warmth, and the Arietta has a wonderfully appealing simplicity. The Butterfly Pavilion is appropriate airy, while there is steady seriousness to the Solitary Traveller. Melody is directly melancholic, while the Nocturne is beautifully wistful, and even the famous March of the Trolls feels more lyrical and less chaotic than usual. While the pieces share the same mood, there is never any danger of sounding samey or monotonous. Perianes’ playing is full of sensitivity and subtlety, and will give a great deal of pleasure.

Simon Thompson
Previous reviews: Dan Morgan ~~ Dave Billinge

Lyric Pieces

1. Arietta, Op. 12/1 [1:25]
2. Kanon, Op. 38/8 [5:00]
3. Sommerfugl (Butterfly), Op. 43/1 [1:54]
4. Ensom vandrer (Solitary traveller), Op. 43/2 [2:20]
5. Melodi (Melody), Op. 47/3 [3:39]
6. Trolltog (March of the trolls), Op. 54/3 [2:59]
7. Notturno (Nocturne), Op. 54/4 [4:17]
8. Hjemve (Homesickness), Op. 57/6 [4:33]
9. For dine födder (At your feet), Op. 68/3 [3:03]
10. Badnlat (At the cradle), Op. 68/5 [3:27]
11. Det var engang (Once upon a time), Op. 71/1 [4:36]
12. Efterklang (Remembrance), Op. 71/7 [1:52]


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