on 28 June 2013
Whether or not you enjoy this CD depends largely on if you know the original sonatas or not.
I have listened to the three sonatas many times over the years and rate them amongst the best of the genre.
I keenly awaited this CD to see how the orchestration works.
I have to say I was,for the most part, disappointed.
The playing is of the first order and the soloist and small orchestra are well recorded, however, in my opinion at least, a lot of the drama is lost.
Grieg wrote the sonatas with a wonderful interaction between violin and piano. He was foremost a composer of piano music and this shows in the sonata's piano writing.
Although the transcription of the piano part to that of string orchestra and a few woodwinds is very well executed, the intense excitement and dramatic changes of tempi just don't come off.
The solo violinist is Henning Kragggerud, and this soloist can be heard on another Naxos disc, playing the original sonatas with great understanding, admirably accompanied on the piano.
So, in summary, anyone coming to these works for the first time will, most likely enjoy these works arranged for orchestra.
Those of us who know the pieces, although finding this CD of passing interest, will reach on their shelves for the original sonatas in further listening.
on 12 February 2014
Grieg is most widely known to the general public for his Piano Concerto and the incidental music he wrote for Peer Gynt. The three Violin Sonatas are a relatively unfamiliar part of his output, despite being among his own favourite pieces. Violins Sonatas Nos. 1 and 2 come from 1865 and 1867, when Grieg was in his early 20's. The third sonata is a more mature work written some twenty years later. At heart, Grieg was a miniaturist as his substantial output of piano music testifies. He never wrote a Violin Concerto but now the foremost Norwegian violinist of his generation, Henning Kraggerud, assisted by Bernt Simen Lund, a member of the Tromsø Chamber Orchestra, has taken up the challenge of creating three new concertos from the sonatas. Kraggerud's excellent booklet notes explain exactly how they produced these “concertos” from the original material. Thankfully, the orchestrations are restrained and tasteful, written as they are for a small orchestra comprising of woodwinds and strings. This approach has successfully avoided the temptation of making the original, intimate, chamber works becoming overblown in their new orchestral clothing. The results are very “Grieg like” and a joy to listen to. The use of the solo oboe and solo flute in the slow movements gives the music an authentic feeling of nostalgia and yearning and in other places the world of the Elegiac Melodies and the Cow Keeper’s Tune isn’t far away. There is no doubting the expertise demonstrated in these orchestrations and the performances given here are superlative.
Having said that do three sonatas, inflated by replacing the piano accompaniment with an orchestra, actually produce three violin concerti? My feeling is that what we have by way of a result is a series of delightful, varied movements for violin and orchestra rather than three concerti. No matter, you need to listen to the results without preconceptions and accept the music as it is. Treat it as you would Peer Gynt and you won’t go far wrong. On that basis, what we have here is a winner. The music is tuneful and appealing and there’s no doubting the love and dedication that the soloist and his orchestra have for Grieg’s work. The Tromsø Chamber Orchestra sounds glorious and they give of their best throughout. They are certainly a formidable groups of musicians. Kraggerud’s performances are magnificent and his bright, clean tone always shines through. When required, he also shows considerable virtuosity and nimble finger work in the faster passages, such as in the finale of Concerto No.1. This is music making of the very highest order.
The quality of the recording is exceptional. Balance between soloist and orchestra is excellent and the sound has an appealing, natural warmth. This is - of its type - a magnificent disc but it’s important not to approach is as a purist and get sniffy about the results. Just listen to it as you would any other orchestral disc. If this recording encourages people to search out the original sonatas (which I personally prefer) then the whole project in my book has been well worth doing.
This is in essence a novelty disc, brilliantly executed and very well produced. It makes a refreshing change from listening to yet another recording of a warhorse concerto from the standard repertoire. Naxos must be applauded for their on-going mission in bringing something new to the table. I am looking forward to hearing what else this superb team may have in the pipeline for us.
on 31 January 2014
I was curious to hear this Violin concerto, but it is not very interesting and moreover not original as based on Grieg's violin sonatas, arraged by Henning Kraggerud and played by him as well.
I rather listen to the violin sonatas, as the arrangement leaves a lot to wish for.
on 21 August 2013
Henning Kraggerud's laudable intention behind orchestrating Grieg's violin sonatas was to fill a gap in Norwegian violin repertoire with orchestra; in particular, to try and match the huge popularity of the Piano Concerto by 'Norway's great son'. The sonatas were apparently among Grieg's own favourite pieces, but now some of his least played in recitals. On a separate note, It's a good thing to have such a good recording of pieces which are regularly on syllabuses for graded exams - hopefully young musicians will find this recording useful.
I thought the orchestrations (by Kraggerud and Bernt Simen Lund) were excellent. The sound is always clean and balanced, yet warm, and the addition of a small wind section to the string orchestra works, creating a sound that sounds no more pianistic than some of Grieg's own orchestral writing.
Unfortunately the first sonata/concerto is fairly repetitive while unmemorable, although the end of the final movement is good. The second was a lot more enjoyable, with some real orchestral climaxes. If Grieg had written a violin concerto he probably would have written something superficially harder and 'bigger', but I think the musical substance might well have been similar. It's Grieg, so it's always going to be a bit disjointed - that's arguably his charm. The third is fierier in the outer movements and deeper in the middle one, so the disc essentially gets better as it goes on.
I do still have a bit of a problem with thinking of them as concerti ('chamber concerto' might be closer?), but ultimately, this doesn't matter - it's a labelling issue, not a musical one. Even if you believe the originals are better, that's still not a valid argument against making arrangements. If they get exposure then it is a good thing for Norwegian music, for Grieg and for these pieces. I'm not sure they will get it, but for this review perhaps that's a good thing: if you want to hear them, you'll have to buy this disc!