Listening to the 'Lyric Pieces' for solo piano by Edvard Grieg is like stumbling across an old photo album in your attic belonging to a long-dead family you never knew. As you turn the dusty pages and pore over the sepia images, you slowly find yourself lost in a time before you were born, in a place you've never been, feeling emotions for people you never knew.
Collecting three books of these 'Pieces', this lovely and sad CD includes three of Grieg's most famous works: the ringingly festive 'Wedding-Day at Troldhaugen', written for his bride on their own wedding day, and which breaks the celebrations for a moment of hushed reflection; the exhausting mischief of 'Puck', a kind of Norwegian 'Flight Of The Bumblebee'; and the sublimely restful 'Peace Of The Woods', transporting you through time and across space to 19th century Scandanavian stillness.
These three modes figure throughout the collection - the social, deliberately nationalistic pieces (e.g. 'The Peasant's Song'; 'Halling' (a Norwegian Dance)); the playful party-pieces (e.g. 'Sailor's Song'); and, best of all, the heart-melting evocations of nature, nostalgia or wistful moods (e.g. 'Melancholy Waltz', 'Remembrances'). All sound distinctively Griegian, including those adapted from folk materials; if this risks a certain homogeneity, even music that is close to salon kitsch has the power to stop you short and freeze you. The most unaccountable piece is perhaps the most apparently sprightly, 'Grandmother's Minuet', which moves into a haunting Bach fugue.
Einar Steen-Nokleberg, who has recorded over a dozen CDs for Naxos of this music, shows no sign of flagging or complacency, treating all the pieces with a detached consideration and light execution that reveals emotional depths for the grateful listener.