on 26 May 2008
I enjoyed this disc very much and is a must for listeners whol like to hear the proces of orchestrating piano-pieces, which, I think, is an art in intself if properly done.
The recording of the orchestration of Grieg's Slatter op.72 by Sommerfelt is a première I think, haven't heard it before.
The Norwegian Dances op.35 orchestrated by Hans Sitt are very well presented on disc and this is a good reading with an orchestra in great shape.
The orchestration of the Funeral March by Halvorson is very Wagnerian, I think if Grieg ever heard it, he couldn't'like it. The piano piece is much better by itself. I know of an arrangement by the British conductor Henry Wood (recorded on Lyrita) which is, an an arrangement, not very different. I don't know why these arrangers have to do it the Wagner-way, alternatives for orchestration must be at hand.
The main interest for me is the orchestration of the Ballade op.24 by the great composer Geir Tveitt. It's very very impressive. First it sounds as a kind of potpourri of folkdances but after more hearings you'll get the feeling that the whole piece is a unified whole. Very impressive!
The Klokkelklang op.54 nr.6 sounds very impressionistic, something like Debussy-Wagner, the way Stokowski could have arranged it.
The playing of the Scottish orchestra is good, the recording too, very brassy sometimes, which isn't very Grieg-like, he was more the intimate guy I think, but great for wall-to-wall sound.
During my adolescence in the relatively non-ironic 1950s the music of Grieg was frequently featured in both piano recitals and orchestral concerts. With rare exceptions, that popularity has faded and one reason for that, I suggest, is that Grieg's healthy, non-neurotic, humanistic music is less appealing in these jaded and skeptical times. Grieg was one of the great early nationalists and his music teems with the simple peasant qualities of exceptionally tuneful Norwegian folk melodies. That is a central quality of the music recorded here.
What makes this CD a bit unusual is that it features orchestrations of Grieg's piano music, only one of which was actually carried out by Grieg himself. The rest were made by other Norwegian composers with the exception of the orchestration of the Norwegian Dances, Op. 25, by Hans Sitt, a German. Grieg did revise an earlier orchestration of the brief 'Ringing Bells' from his Lyric Pieces done by conductor Anton Seidl. Easily the most impressive of the lot is the orchestration of the twenty-minute piano 'Ballade in G minor, Op. 24' made by the great Norwegian composer Geir Tveitt. This alone, for me, justifies the purchase of this budget issue. Tveitt was in the generation after Grieg and as a nationalist was Grieg's heir. He expands Grieg's orchestration style by including such things as celesta and harp and making striking uses of string harmonics and ponticello effects. The Ballade, written during a time of great stress in Grieg's life -- death of both parents, struggles with religious doubt, concerns that he and his wife could not have children -- is perhaps the most autobiographical of all his instrumental pieces although it has also been interpreted by some as a paean to the Norwegian homeland.
Music lovers who have never heard these orchestrations will come upon familiar piano works in a new guise. Particularly charming is the orchestration of the second of the Norwegian Dances -- Allegretto tranquillo e grazioso -- with the plangent transfer of its nonchalant melody to the oboe (and later other winds) and with pizzicato lower strings imitating the oompah of the piano bass-line.
The booklet notes, written by the CD's conductor Bjarte Engeset, are a model of their kind. The Royal Scottish National Orchestra play as to the manner born. Recorded sound is transparent and lifelike.
This is a wonderful life enhancing disc of orchestrated piano pieces. As you would expect from Greig, the music assembled here all have that ringing,vibrant,spring-in-its step Nordic melodic charm and dynamism that instantly grabs the listener and delights as it alternately soothes or excites. Greig as a composer seems at his best in small pieces,great on atmosphere and tunefulness but generally without the angst or inclination to gloominess or self-doubt that composers of his era often exhibited. That is why he is frequently seen as somewhat of a 'light weight' at least in the UK. But I beg to differ.His music is about communication,directness and uncomplicated expression of feeling.Like Greig for what he is, rather then criticize him for what he isn't! For amongst all the energy,there is beauty and depth to be experienced:listen to the lovely 'Ballade,Op 24,or the sonorous 'Ring Bells from Lyric Pieces Op 54, No6' for proof.
The orchestral playing,production and sleeve-notes are all first rate. A great release from Naxos.Recommended.