Sunday 19 October 2014

Audite’s fourth volume in their edition of The Complete Symphonic Works of Edvard Grieg is another fine release that leaves this series set to become a real winner

Audite’s excellent series of The Complete Symphonic Works of Edvard Grieg has been winning awards galore. Volume I brought us the Symphonic Dances Op. 64; Peer Gynt Suite No.1 Op. 46 & No.2 Op. 55 and Funeral March in Memory of Rikard Nordraak and received a number of accolades including Gramophone magazine’s Editor’s Choice.

Volume II gave us the Two Elegiac Melodies Op. 34; From Holberg’s Time Op. 40, Two Melodies Op. 53 and Two Nordic Melodies Op. 63 being chosen as RBB Kulturradio CD of the Week and receiving a top rating from

Volume III featured the Concert Overture 'In Autumn', Op. 11; Lyric Suite, Op. 54; Klokkeklang, Op. 54, No. 6; Old Norwegian Melody with Variations, Op. 51 and Three Orchestral Pieces from ‘Sigurd Jorsalfar’, Op. 56 bringing more awards including a Gramophone Choice. I was particularly enthusiastic about this, the first volume that I reviewed in this series finding it to be ‘the finest Grieg disc to be issued for a long time’

Audite continue their five CD Complete Edition of The Symphonic Works of Grieg with Volume IV featuring this composer’s early Symphony in C minor and his popular Piano Concerto in A minor.

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As with all of this series the WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln  is conducted by Eivind Aadland joined on this disc by pianist Herbert Schuch

There have been a number of recordings of Grieg’s Symphony in C minor, EG 119 in recent years despite Grieg having withdrawn the work. There is a purposeful opening to the Allegro molto before the main theme appears, with Eivind Aadland and the WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln teasing out hints of Grieg’s later, mature style in the gentler passages. Whilst it is true that much of this symphony has the influence of Schumann and Gade, Grieg does bring a distinctive voice already, if not fully mature. These players do a tremendous job keeping the movement from flagging and highlighting the attractive moments.

They bring a lovely quality to the tranquil Adagio espressivo, a lovely, gentle ebb and flow allowing Grieg’s already fine orchestration to emerge. There is a nicely sprung Allegro energico offset by a spirited second subject before the opening tempo returns, all given a nice rhythmic lift before the lively coda.

More than anywhere else in this symphony it is the Allegro molto vivace that is so Schumannesque. It has a fine forward flow with some attractive ideas with these artists bringing out the best in the music by fine phrasing, rubato and attention to details. There are little hints of the mature Grieg in the quieter moments towards the coda.

Whilst this symphony lacks Grieg’s later, atmospheric sense of place and style, it is, nevertheless, an attractive work particularly when finely played as here.

One of the difficulties that can often arise with complete editions is when the series arrives at an extremely popular work that has been recorded many times. With Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A minor, Op.16 there is no such difficulty with Herbert Schuch giving us very distinctive performance.

Following on from the Symphony in C minor one notices, immediately, what a difference four years had made; with Grieg’s Piano Concerto showing clearly his recognisable style beautifully wrought by these players. They bring nicely rounded phrasing and a measured tempo to the Allegro molto moderato. Herbert Schuch, after a strong opening, brings a lovely breadth to his playing, revealing this to be just as much the poetic Grieg. This approach makes the surges into the more virtuosic passages have more impact. Schuch brings some terrific changes of tempi that really lift the music with some sprightly little rhythmic touches. This pianist also brings poetry to the cadenza ,remarkably so, with some very fine touches as he builds to the more technically challenging part with formidable playing marked by fine touch and phrasing before the brilliant coda.

Schuch and the WDR Sinfonieorchester really shine in the Adagio. A lovely orchestral opening sets the scene for Schuch’s poetic entry. There are some exquisitely gentle passages, with this pianist picking out lovely little phrases and details. Schuch and the orchestra let the brakes off for the opening of the Allegro moderato molto e marcato, always beautifully controlled and with a lovely transition to the slow central section.  There is some beautiful rubato from this pianist, with delicate filigree passages and some spectacularly fine playing as the movement moves toward the coda.

Altogether this is another fine addition to Audite’s ongoing complete symphonic cycle. The recording from Köln Philharmonie is excellent and there are informative booklet notes. This series is set to become a real winner.

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