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Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907)
Lyric Pieces (selection) (1867-1901)
Janina Fialkowska (piano)
rec. 2014, Salle Raoul-Jobin, Palais Montcalm, Québec
ATMA ACD22696 [64:50]

Janina Fialkowska turns in a very nicely couched selection of Lyric Pieces. By the way there's no hint that there will be a volume two so this is strictly for those who would like a selection rather than all ten books in full. Here are 25 of the pieces each finely characterised and by no means all contemplative. Watercolours they may be, but they are a shade more vivid than MacDowell's New England Idylls, Woodland Sketches and Fireside Tales even if they are, broadly speaking, in the same neck of the woods. Strong on poetry and guileless charm, this music is sparing when it comes to drama.

The familiar and memorably upbeat Wedding Day at Troldhaugen rustles with jolly rustic life as does Homeward. Butterfly is lovingly done, with its slowing and accelerating gait. Given the title it's odd that it carries a sense of rivulets fretting their way downstream. Little bird is a miniature that is notable for its shiver and shudders. Nice to see that Grieg had time to celebrate his mentor, the Danish composer Niels Gade in a smiling, echo-singing miniature that is Gade. The composer had just died so this is a memorial piece but bound up in joy rather than sadness. Melody has a rocking, easygoing and comforting character. The tripping and rushing Sylph contrasts with the fast babble that is Brooklet. Grieg surprises some of us with At Your Feet which is almost Mahlerian at first but then becomes more devotedly tender as the title suggests. More ambiguous in mood and atmosphere is Evening in the Mountains - a very introspective piece that in closing sinks into subdued stasis. Grieg's Puck might well be related to the Norwegian trolls but the final track Remembrances is a gently sentimental effusion into which is woven recollections of the waltz.

The full liner-notes are by Irène Brisson and are in English and French. Criticism: ATMA have printed the rear-insert track-list in black characters on a sombre blue ground. The tracks are as plain as day inside the booklet but turn over the jewel case and it's a challenge to pick out the words and numbers.

Fialkowska has recorded plentifully for ATMA. The site has reviewed her CD of the Chopin piano concertos written down to string quartet accompaniment. In addition the label champion her, as she most fully merits, in other Chopin and in Schubert, Mozart and Liszt.

Rob Barnett

Previous review: Brian Reinhart



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