Monday 2 September 2013

The finest Grieg disc to be issued for a long time from the WDR Sinfonieorchester Koln conducted by Eivind Aadland on Audite

Whilst prolific as a composer Edvard Hagerup Grieg (1843-1907) wrote comparatively few orchestral works compared with the number of piano works and songs that he produced.

Audite  have just released the third in their five volume series covering all of Grieg’s Symphonic works as well as his incidental music with the WDR Sinfonieorchester Koln conducted by Eivind Aadland . Born in Norway, Aadland studied conducting under Jorma Panula and went on to become Chief Conductor of the Trodheim Symphony Orchestra for seven seasons from 2003 and has worked with many other Scandinavian orchestras as well as many other orchestras around the world.


Audite 92.669

This new release opens with Grieg’s early Konzertouvertüre ‘Im Herbst’ op.11 (Concert Overture ‘In Autumn’) which receives a performance that brings out all of Grieg’s natural melodic gifts, with much of the mature composer evident despite the Mendelssohnian touches. There are moments of dramatic, incisive playing from the WDR Symphony Orchestra under Aaland and a thrilling coda.

Grieg published ten volumes of Lyriske Stykker (Lyric Pieces) for piano between 1867 and 1901. He arranged his fifth volume, from 1891, for orchestra as the Lyrische Suite Op.54. Eivind Aadland gives us a beautifully shaped, Andantino expressive, Gjætergut (Shepherd’s Boy), knowing just how to coax out every little nuance. There is an irresistible Ganger (Times), beautifully paced before the Notturno, where Aadland never allows the music to flag, highlighting so many lovely moments. The final piece, Troldtog (Troll’s March), is terrifically played, fleet and rumbustious with a haunting little Poco piu lento central section.

The original piano version included a Scherzo as the fifth piece and a final Glockengeläute (Klokkeklang) (Op.54 No.6) (Bellringing) that was included in some editions of the orchestral version but not in the later ones. It seems that Grieg had concerns over the advanced nature of the music. Aadland includes the sixth piece, an andante, here and a striking piece it is too, opening with Hardanger sounding harmonies and, as this strange work slowly rises and falls with strange and magical sounds, before the brass and cymbals signal the coda. Without a doubt this is one of Grieg’s most progressive pieces which makes one wonder what he might have gone on to achieve, had he thrown caution to the wind.

Altnorwegische Romanze mit Variationen Op.51 (Old Norwegian Romance with Variations) was composed at Grieg’s house,Troldhaugen, south of Bergen, Norway, in 1890. Designed by Grieg's cousin, the architect Schak Bull (1858-1956), it was completed in 1885. The name comes from trold meaning troll and haug from the Old Norse word haugr meaning hill or knoll. Altnorwegische Romanze mit Variationen was another work arranged for orchestra, though this time from a two piano composition.

The Poco tranquillo brings all of Grieg’s poignant melancholic style whilst the vibrant Poco Allegro leads to the crisp, bracing rhythms of the Energico, with some terrific playing from the WDR SO as there also is in the Allegro leggiero. There is a lovely flowing Poco Andante followed by a tremendously played Maestoso, with its brass opening where the recorded sound shows off this fine orchestra to the full. After the Allegro scherzando e leggiero, a quicksilver piece with some superb playing, there is the strange little Andante, so perfectly caught. There is some lovely orchestral rubato as the Andante molto tranquillo moves forward with the lovely Romanze theme showing through.  Aadland gives us a fleeting Presto, so lightly and sensitively played, a Tempo di Menuetto, a lovely variation where the Romanze theme again flows by and a dancing Allegro marcato. The Tempo di Valse has so many varied dynamics before the Adagio molto expressivo brings a darker atmosphere, with lovely orchestral sonorities, and leading into a glorious Finale, full of fire with a lovely Andante molto tranquillo to end.
How Eivind Aaland shapes all these variations is miraculous, giving us one of the finest performances of Grieg I have heard for a long time.

The final work is the Drei Orchesterstücke aus ‘Siugurd Jorsalfar’ Op.56 (Three Orchestral Works from ‘Sigurd the Crusader’) instrumental music for play by Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson (1832-1910) written in 1872, the incidental music consisted of two songs and three orchestral interludes which Grieg arranged as an orchestral work premiered in 1892. The grand Vorspiel. In der Königshalle (Prologue in the King’s Hall) gives way to a gentle, wistful, melodic central section. The passionate Intermezzo, Borghilds Traum (Borghild’s Dream) is wonderfully pointed up and the final Huldigungsmarsch (Homage March) receives a really fine performance with all of Grieg’s varying moods, from rhapsodic to grandly regal, so well judged, yet at times chamber music in scale.

With a superb recording from the Philharmonie, Koln, this is the finest Grieg disc to be issued for a long time and, if the other volumes in this series are as good, then this series will prove hard to beat.

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