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Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907)
Peer Gynt, suite No.1 for solo piano, Op.46 (1888) [14:03]
Peer Gynt, suite No.2 for solo piano, Op.55 (1891) [18:32]
25 Norwegian Folk Songs and Dances, Op.17 (1869) [32:03]
I love thee; Songs, Book 1 No.3, Op.41 [3:39]
Daniel Propper (piano)
rec. 2018, Studio Forgotten Records, Rennes

Stockholm-born Daniel Propper has recorded innovative and invigorating albums for Forgotten Records. There was his splendidly researched and brio-laced album of Napoleonic music (see review) which I found captivating and novel, and a valuable album of music by Yvon Bourrel (see review). He has also recorded French music for flute and piano and a miscellaneous piano recital of music by Friedman, Busoni and Gunnar de Frumerie. He has an ear for the off-beat and the unusual and invariably possesses the technique and style to put the repertoire across to the listener.

Here, for once, the repertoire is more conventional. A dozen years after the staging of Peer Gynt Grieg extracted and re-ordered his music, casting it in two suites of four pieces and soon after he acceded to his publisher’s request for solo piano transcriptions. Playing on a Steinway B in Forgotten Records’ clear and unresonant studios allows for plenty of clarity in the performance and one can appreciate his precision and the play of colour and depth of tone. He offers due solemnity without needless exaggeration in Åse’s death scene, requisite buoyancy in Anitra’s Dance and grotesquery and élan in the Mountain King’s hall. He finds the Beethovenian motor behind Ingrid’s Lament, in the second suite, as well as the insouciance of the Arabian Dance. Deftly he brings the suite to a close in Solveig’s Song.
The remainder of the disc is given over to the sequence of 25 Norwegian Folk Songs and Dances that Grieg wrote as his Op.17. The nationalistic-folkloric impulse behind these delightful pieces is clear as is Grieg’s subtle use of harmony in the collection of wedding songs, religious chorales, ballads, national dances and the Halling folk dance. None of the pieces exceeds two minutes in length, most hovering at around the minute mark but it’s indicative of Grieg’s skill as both pianist and transcriber-harmonizer that he vests the pieces with such captivating character and ensures that the moods are varied, from the skittish to the solemn, from the pensive to the vibrant.

Propper’s envoi is a lovely reading of one of Grieg’s best-known songs, I Love Thee.

There are discerning notes in French from Guillaume Le Dréau which have been excellently translated into English by Laura Knowlton-Le Roux.

Jonathan Woolf

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