Grieg Edition (21 CD box set, FLAC)
Grieg Edition (21 CD box set, FLAC)

Composer: Edvard Grieg, Johann Svendsen
Performer: Jorge Bolet, Per Hoyer, Ivan Zenaty, Antonin Kubalek, Robert Cohen, Roger Vignoles, Hakon Austbo, Marianne Hirsti, Christa Pfeiler, Kjell Magnus Sandve, Knut Skram, Rudolf Jansen, Danish National Radio Choir
Orchestra: Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra, Iceland Symphony Orchestra, Academy Of St Martin In The Fields, Israel Chamber Orchestra, Raphael Quartet
Conductor: Mark Ermler, Riccardo Chailly, Yondani Butt, Petri Sakari, Jesper Grove Jorgensen
Audio CD
SPARS Code: DDD
Number of Discs: 21 CD box set
Format: FLAC (tracks+cue)
Label: Brilliant Classics
Size: 4.65 GB
Recovery: +3%
Scan: yes

Incs Complete Piano Works; Orchestral, Choral & Chamber Works; 170 Songs. Austbo piano, Bolet piano, RPO, ASMF, Raphael Qt, Hirsti soprano, Magnus Sandve tenor, Jansen piano (Brilliant Classics)

• Håkon Austbø has recorded all Grieg’s music for the piano, since composer and pianist are compatriots they are the best match one could wish for. In 2003 Austbø was the recipient of the prestigious Grieg Award. This edition contains 7 CD’s with his idiomatic performances.

• Another 7 CD’s are taken up by the orchestral, choral and chamber works, some of which – with the music for Peer Gynt in front – belong the best known part of Grieg’s output. Performers include the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields and the Raphael Quartet. Jorge Bolet is the soloist in the famous piano concerto.

• The final third of this Edition is dedicated to Grieg’s 170 beautiful songs which at the time were inspired and performed by his wife Nina. In this repertoire Grieg also had ample opportunity to incorporate his beloved folk music. The composer shows himself a true master of balance and expressiveness of this intimate genre. The singers include soprano Marianne Hirsti and tenor Kjell Magnus Sandve. They are accompanied by pianist Rudolf Jansen.

CD 01:
EDVARD GRIEG
(1843-1907)
Orchestral Works
01. Peer Gynt Suite No.1,Op.46
02. Peer Gynt Suite No.2, Op.55
03. Piano Concerto in A minor Op. 16

CD 02:
01. Symphonic Dances Op. 64
02. Sigurd Jorsalfar Suite Op. 56
03. Lyric Suite Op. 54

CD 03:
JOHANN SVENDSEN
(1840-1911)
01. Norwegian Dances Op. 35
02. In Autumn,Overture Op. 11
03. Old Norwegian Romance with Variations Op. 51
04. Erotik (from Lyrische Stücke) Op. 43 No. 5, for String Orchestra and Harp

CD 04:
Orchestral Works – Choral Works

01. Two Elegiac Melodies Op. 34
02. Suite “From Holberg’s Time”for String Orchestra,Op. 40
03. Four Hymns, for Baritone solo and Mixed Chorus,Op. 74
04. Two religious choruses
05. The great, white flock we see, for baritone solo and male chorus, Op. 30 No. 10

CD 05:
Chamber Music

01. String Quartet No. 1 in G minor Op. 27
02. String Quartet No. 2 in F major (completed by Julius Röntgen)

CD 06:
01. Violin Sonata No. 1 in F major Op. 8
02. Violin Sonata No. 2 in G major Op. 13
03. Violin Sonata No. 3 in C minor Op. 45

CD 07:
01. Cello Sonata in A minor Op. 36
02. Fugue in F minor for string quartet
03. Andante Con Moto for piano trio, in C minor

Also available:  Schleiermacher: Feldman - Early Piano Works (FLAC)

CD 08:
Piano Works

01. Lyrische Stücke Book I – IV

CD 09:
01. Lyrische Stücke Book V – VII

CD 10:
01. Lyrische Stücke Book VIII – X

CD 11:
01. Piano Sonata in E minor Op. 7
02. Folkelivsbilder Op. 19 / Scenes from popular life
03. Ballade in G minor Op. 24
04. Suite fra Holbergs tid Op. 40 / From Holberg’s time

CD 12:
01. Four Album leaves Op.28
02. Improvisata on 2 norwegian folk tunes Op. 29
03. Four piano pieces Op. 1
04. Poetic tone-pictures Op. 3
05. Humoresques Op. 6
06. Nordic dances and folk tunes Op. 17

CD 13:
01. Norwegian folk tunes Op.66
02. Norwegian peasant dances Op. 72
03. Moods Op. 73

CD 14:
01. Piano pieces after his own songs I Op. 41
02. Piano pieces after his own songs II Op. 53
03. Three piano pieces EG 105
04. Six Norwegian mountain melodies EG 108a
05. Three piano pieces

CD 15:
Songs / Lieder

01. Four Songs, Op. 15
02. Three Songs from “Peer Gynt” Op. 23
03. Six Songs by Holger Drachmann Op. 49
04. Five Songs by Vilhelm Krag Op. 60

CD 16:
01. “Melodies of the Heart” by H. C.Andersen, Op. 5
02. Twelve Songs to Poems by A.O.Vinje, Op. 33
03. Six Elegiac Songs by John Paulsen, Op. 59
04. The Mountain Thrall, Op. 32

CD 17:
01. Seven Children’s Song’s, Op. 61
02. Songs from “Haugtussa”, -not included in Op. 67
03. The Mountain Maid. Song cycle from Arne Garborg’s “Haugtussa”, Op. 67

CD 18:
01. Six Songs Op. 4
02. Four Songs by Bj.Bjørnson Op. 21
03. “Reminiscences from Mountain and Fjord” Op. 44
04. Six Songs Op. 48
05. “Norway”. Five Songs by John Paulsen Op. 58

CD 19:
01. Four Songs, Op. 2
02. Four Songs by Chr.Winther, Op.10
03. Nine Songs, Op. 18
04. Six Songs by Henrik Ibsen, Op. 25
05. Songs without Opus numbers

CD 20:
01. Songs and Ballads by A.Munch, Op. 9
02. Five Poems by John Paulsen, Op. 26
03. Romances, Op.39
04. Five Songs by Otto Benzon, Op. 69 / Op. 70

CD 21:
01. EG 135
02. EG 145
03. EG 155
04. EG 123
05. EG 129
06. EG 142
07. EG 137
08. EG 125
09. EG 128
10. EG 151
11. EG 131
12. EG 147
13. EG 141
14. EG 153
15. EG 144
16. EG 126
17. EG 149
18. EG 156
19. EG 154
20. EG 136

Surprisingly good and excellent value

Released to coincide with centenary of Grieg’s death, this inexpensive set continues in the tradition of Brilliant’s not-quite-complete Editions. It’s closer in scope to their Masterworks series, or the Berlioz and Shostakovich sets than it is to the huge and complete Bach, Mozart and Beethoven collections. I’m puzzled by the lackluster reception this Grieg set has gotten among online reviewers, since there’s quite a bit of attractive music here, much of which gets little exposure outside Scandinavia.

The 21 CDs divide neatly into three groups of seven, with the first one devoted to Grieg’s orchestral and chamber music. Sigurd Jorsalfar, the Lyric Suite and the Symphonic Dances are handled by Yondani Butt and the Royal Philharmonic. There’s nothing special there: the performances are adequate, the tempos often unusually slow. The Peer Gynt suites fare better. It’s unfortunate that only the suites are provided, and not more extensive selections from the incidental music, such as the fiddle tunes or the prelude to the first act.

The Piano Concerto is performed by Jorge Bolet with Riccardo Chailly conducting the Berlin Radio Orchestra. Their tempos in the outer movements are notably slower than most performers’ (and Grieg’s metronome markings). But this is one of those performances where hearing an old warhorse at a slower-than-usual tempo is revelatory rather than tiresome. Bolet gives us an opportunity to pick out some often-missed details in the orchestral accompaniment and piano figuration. And that’s not something that often happens with Grieg, who rarely reveals much beyond a couple casual hearings with score in hand. The only thing I regret about this performance is that the more relaxed tempos reveal some inaccuracies in the orchestra. For example, there are some pretty sloppy off-beats in the strings’ accompaniment to the woodwind’s initial statement of the first movement’s main theme (without being there, I can’t tell if this is the fault of the players or the conductor). But in the succeeding animato passage that closes the first theme group, the piano plays a dotted-note figure where Grieg has made a distinction between grace notes and the shortest of the measured notes (32nd notes). In most recordings, the music goes by so fast that you’ll never notice the difference, but not here. Likewise, at the start of the finale, I hadn’t previously noticed the horn/bassoon punctuation of the main theme, and how the bassoon’s descending half-step becomes augmented on repeat.

Disks 5 through 7 cover the chamber music. You get both string quartets (with Röntgen’s completion of the Second), the three violin sonatas, the cello sonata, and a couple of other scraps.

I don’t share the negative impression some have towards the recordings of the piano pieces. They’re played by Håkon Austbø, a Norwegian pianist best known for his interpretations of Scriabin and Messiaen. It’s Austbø who is featured in Brilliant Classics’ Brahms Edition playing that composer’s most important piano works. Although I often find his tempos rushed here, the performances are certainly acceptable, and are unlikely to disappoint you if they’re the only ones you have of Grieg’s piano music. Disks 8 through 14 cover this repertory.

Then come the songs, across the final seven discs. I’m not generally a fan of the 19th Century lieder genre: overproduced voices drifting toward just intonation, accompanied by a piano entrenched in equal temperament, a combination that has never jibed for me. Nevertheless, this was an eye opening experience for me, since Grieg’s songs are far less known in North American than those of his German speaking counterparts. Many of the songs are beautiful and carry over the piquant melancholy of the Lyric Pieces for piano. Listening through this set, in fact, made me realize how much of Grieg’s music is in minor. Those long, dark, winters must have gotten to him! CD 17 is centered on the song cycle Haugtussa (the Mountain Maid), probably the most important collection of Grieg songs. There are some very beautiful specimens here, and soprano Marianne Hirsti genuinely captures the spirit and poignancy of these songs about pastoral life and unrequited love. Some notorious Brilliant Classics engineering problems present on this CD. In my copy, there is distortion between 2:18 to 2:21 in the song Sighs, for example.

Other highlights among the songs include the Op. 5 Melodies of the Heart, Clara’s Song (EG 124), which anticipates Sibelius’s Valse Triese. Rodulf Jansen’s piano playing is a highlight throughout, emphasizing the delicacy of the Cradlesong, the dramatics of the Op. 49 settings, then the humor in the Op. 60 Krag settings. The singers are somewhat uneven, with Hirsti and baritone Knut Skram sounding the most stabile of the lot to me. But they all appear to be native Norwegian speakers (the CDs were originally released on the Norwegian Victoria label).

Some perfunctory liner notes are supplied in a booklet. Unfortunately there are no song lyrics or translations provided. This is a real shame, since these are much harder to find on the Web than translations of, say, Schubert lieder. The Lied and Art Song Texts Page has many of the Norwegian texts, but I don’t know that language (as close to English as it sounds), and the generic Web translators generally don’t support it either. I would love some of these songs sung in English, and I think my young daughters would enjoy many of the more playful ones, such as the Kidlings’ Dance from Haugtussa, if they could understand the words.

CD sleeves are cardboard, but are made of a flimsier kind of recycled cardboard than those found in the most of Brilliant Classics’ other boxed sets.

The bottom line? Well, the orchestral recordings are OK if you’re after a bargain survey of Grieg’s most important orchestral works, and they generally fare better than most such offering in these Brilliant Classic box sets. The piano music and chamber music are fine, if not top notch. The song recordings are interesting and often compelling if you like lieder, and possibly even if you don’t. Although Grieg’s songs are simple strophic affairs, they’re lovely, and not as well known as their German counterparts. It’s like listening to the Lyric Pieces with a voice added. In fact, it’s the seven CDs devoted to the songs that were the most revelatory for me, despite the occasional engineering glitch. If you can obtain this set at an inexpensive price (as usual, I got mine from Amazon’s French site where it was much cheaper at that time) then it represents great value.

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