Sweet! If there is a better word than 'sweet' to describe the sound of Grieg's string orchestra music, I don't know what it is. This is music that everyone except hard core modernists adore. What is interesting -- and a bit sad -- is that this music is rarely heard these days on orchestras' regular season programs. When I was a youngster orchestras played these works often. The 'Holberg Suite' and the all-string 'Ase's Death' from the first 'Peer Gynt Suite' occasionally get a hearing in pops concerts. And all the music included on this CD is heard with great regularity on classical music radio stations. Some of this music always figures in request programs. Yet, there haven't been all that many recent recordings of this music. This issue from the Oslo Camerata fills that bill with flying colors. I've rarely heard such gorgeous, impeccably tuned and rhythmically precise playing from a string group, even those that make up the string sections of the world famous orchestas like the Berlin Philharmonic. In short, this is a delectable recording of delectable music recorded in clear, lifelike sound. I suppose the only thing that would make it any more of a recommendation would be if it had been recorded in Troldhaugen, Grieg's own home in Bergen.
At the time of this review Naxos had not included the exact contents of the CD. One hopes they will eventually provide sound clips from the CD; you'll hear what I mean about the élan and joy or gentle melancholy to be heard in these performances. Heard are the Holberg Suite, Op. 40; Two Elegiac Melodies, Op. 34 ('Last Spring' and 'The Wounded Heart'); Two Melodies, Op. 53 ('Norwegian' ['Norsk'] and 'The First Meeting'); No. 2 from Two Lyric Pieces, Op. 68 ('At the Cradle'); Two Nordic Melodies, Op. 63 ('In Folk Style' and 'Cow Call - Peasant Dance'), and ends with 'Ase's Death' from Peer Gynt Suite, Op. 46.
The Oslo Camerata is conducted by Stephan Barratt-Due who leads from the violin. He is featured in the 'Rigaudon' from the Holberg Suite and is no mean fiddler himself. (In fact, my only criticism of this marvelous CD -- aside from its somewhat short timing of 52 minutes -- is that the Rigaudon is just a bit too fast for my taste, although it doesn't seem to faze Barratt-Due and his cohorts.)
This is, for me, a first choice for these delicious miniatures. It would be welcome both for those who don't have other recordings of the music, or for those who want to broaden their collections. Neither will go wrong with this disc.