Grieg Edition (25CD)
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It’s easy to dismiss Edvard Grieg because of the familiarity of the Peer Gynt Suite and the Piano Concerto in A minor, but to listen to just those works is only scratching the surface of a diverse repertoire. Grieg’s works drew international attention to Norway and, for a while, the composer succeeded Mendelssohn as Britain’s most popular living composer. This set is an immersive experience, as we delve into the lush green landscapes of Grieg’s homeland. The collection opens with In Autumn, an arrangement of a traditional Reapers’ Song, followed by his celebrated Piano concerto in A minor Op.16, which Franz Liszt enjoyed playing. Grieg’s more impressionist works such as Klokkeklang (Bell-ringing), published in 1891, where tonal ambiguities arise from shifting fifths and liberal use of the pedal, sound remarkably similar to Debussy’s works published in the years that followed. What makes Grieg’s music special is his connection to nature and the wilderness: the rolling hills, lofty mountain peaks, the thick dark forests which hide the giants, faeries and elves of folklore. Along with the well-known works, this release also sheds light on the hidden gems in Grieg’s repertoire including his vocal works, which are seldom performed or recorded due to their vocal complexity and the unfamiliarity of the language. The songs are often settings of folk stories, such as Den Bergtekne (‘The Mountain Thrall’). The old Norse poem is arranged for baritone voice with instrumental accompaniment and tells the story of a young man lost deep in the forest who is bewitched by the Elvin-King’s daughter. His Lyric Pieces for solo piano have also been sorely overlooked. In Book X Op.71, ‘Skogstillhet’ (Peace in the Woods) is a standout piece. It recalls the mystery and tranquility of a forest, from the sunlight filtering through the trees with its soft opening chords to the rolling bass in the middle section evoking the secrets hidden in its darkest depths. For Grieg, his surroundings were a source of inspiration and he recognized the natural landscape as a fundamental and irreplaceable part of his homeland. In today’s rapidly developing world, where expansion is often prioritized over preservation, Grieg’s music has a pressing relevance.