Sunday, 26 July 2015

Fragments for a second piano concerto by Grieg are coupled with a world premiere of Helge Evju’s piano concerto based on those fragments as well as a performance of the Grieg/Grainger edition of the A minor concerto on a new release from Grand Piano

Edvard Grieg (1843-1907) never managed to write his projected Second Piano Concerto in B minor leaving only small fragments of ideas, since published by the Oslo Grieg Society. These fragments lasting around two and a half minutes have been recorded by pianist Carl Petersson on a new disc from Grand Piano .

Petersson also plays Helge Evju’s (b.1942) Piano Concerto in B minor based on Grieg’s B minor Concerto fragments as well as the famous A minor Concerto in Percy Grainger’s edition and two of Grieg’s songs arranged for solo piano by Evju. All in all, this proves to be a fascinating musical experience. For the concertos, Petersson is joined by the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra  conducted by Kerry Stratton

Grainger first met Grieg in London in 1906 when he was invited to spend the summer of 1907 at the composer’s villa Troldhaugen near Bergen in Norway. Grainger was due to play Grieg’s Piano Concerto at the Leeds Festival that year and, therefore, spent some time going over the score with the composer making small emendations to the solo part. It is this revision by Grieg and Grainger that is performed here.

The Allegro moderato of Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op. 16 (Revised by P. Grainger) has, from the opening timpani through the opening piano bars, a great incisiveness. There is light, crisp orchestral phrasing, a lovely transparency and fine detail. Carl Petersson brings a spontaneity to his playing with Kerry Stratton and the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra providing some lovely rather leisurely orchestral passages. There is a beautifully done cadenza, fluid with a terrific power before a fiery conclusion.  

The Adagio also brings some fine orchestral playing in the opening with lovely individual instrumental details. Petersson’s lovely silken, fluid playing in this movement is really rather fine.

Petersson brings his feeling of spontaneity to the Allegro marcato pushing ahead with abandon to great effect. There are some particularly fine dramatic passages as well as lovely poetic moments finely played by both soloist and orchestra. It is Petersson’s free, fluid, spontaneous approach that brings so much to this performance, pointing up so many details before leading to a grandiose coda where there is some pretty virtuosic playing.

This is a particularly revealing performance with some very fine moments.

As a prelude to Helge Evju’s Piano Concerto based on Grieg’s sketches for his Piano Concerto in B Minor, EG 120 Carl Petersson plays the small fragments sadly lasting only around two and a half minutes. Whilst perhaps not quite as tantalising as the purported sketches for Sibelius’ Eighth Symphony, these fragments certainly make one wonder how Grieg might have used them. Some certainly have a distinctive flow though, no doubt, Grieg would have developed them to something much greater.

The opening Moderato tranquillo of Helge Evju: Piano Concerto in B Minor (On Fragments by E. Grieg) has a very Nordic orchestral sound. The piano soon joins, leading to a fine melody with overtones of Grieg appearing. The faster, skittish passages for piano recall Grieg’s A minor concerto though there is not the same tautness of construction. The Scherzo brings a buoyant, rhythmically jaunty theme with a cadenza that slowly picks over the ideas as though more of a trio section, before gently and slowly leading into the Adagio. Here there is a wistful melody which, as it develops, brings some lovely passages.

The fourth movement is a Cadenza that opens with robust chords from this pianist before developing through some finely intricate phrases with some of the rhythmic episodes recalling Grieg.  The Finale pushes us headlong into another rhythmic theme before arriving at a broad romantic melody. There is a terrific coda.

Evju refers to this concerto as ‘a piece of whimsy’. It is, in fact, an attractive way of using Grieg’s fragments within a concerto context that many will enjoy immensely. Petersson gives a terrific performance.

As an added extra this pianist concludes this disc with two of Helge Evju’s transcriptions for piano of songs by Grieg. There is a very effective transcription of With a Water Lily from 6 Songs, Op. 25 that reveals itself as a fine little piece, almost Rachmaninovian at times. A Dream from 6 Songs, Op. 48 has a lovely flow, finely revealed by Petersson. It moves through some very fine passages, quite virtuosic and brilliantly played here.

I cannot imagine any Grieg enthusiast not wanting to hear this fascinating disc finely recorded and with first rate performances from all concerned.

The recording brings a fine amount of detail in a natural acoustic. There are excellent booklet notes.

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