Top 10 Grieg recordings

Gramophone Wed 13th April 2016

Gramophone's guide to the essential recordings of Edvard Grieg's music – from Dinu Lipatti to Anne Sofie von Otter

Piano Concerto

Leif Ove Andsnes pf Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra / Mariss Jansons

(Warner Classics)

'However many times he has performed the Grieg, Andsnes retains a freshness and expressiveness that never sounds contrived, always spontaneous. That inspirational quality is more markedly perceptible with the new version’s faster tempi, but the expressive flights remain just as broad. In that contrast, Andsnes is firmly supported by Jansons and the Berlin Philharmonic, with playing not just refined but dramatic too in fiercely exciting tuttis...' Read the review

 

Piano Concerto

Stephen Kovacevich pf BBC Symphony Orchestra / Sir Colin Davis

(Philips)

'Kovacevich’s indelibly fresh performance has enchanted for over three decades now. Felicities abound, not least the agile bravura of the first-movement cadenza and captivating skip of the finale.' 

 

Piano Concerto

Dinu Lipatti pf Philharmonia Orchestra / Alceo Galliera

(Warner Classics)

'Very special playing from Dinu Lipatti; the poetry and rapt beauty of this famous 1947 performance linger long in the memory. It is included here on a seven-disc retrospective – pure gold, all of it!'

 

Lyric Pieces – excerpts

Leif Ove Andsnes pf

(Warner Classics)

'Taking you on a journey of increasing subtlety and introspection, he makes you aware that so much of this music is for those long winter nights. At the same time the music is so richly varied: the insistent dactylic rhythm of ‘Melody’ creates a strange unsettling poetic ambience, while the central oasis of calm in ‘Wedding Day at Troldhaugen’ would surely melt a heart of stone. All Andsnes’s performances have that deceptive simplicity which is his touchstone...' Read the review

 

Lyric Pieces

Emil Gilels pf 

(DG)

'Here, surely, is a classic recording, one of calibre and status for all time. Rarely can a great artist have declared his love with such touching candour. By his own admission Gilels discovered in Grieg’s Lyric Pieces a “whole world of intimate feeling” and at the 1974 sessions fought tirelessly to capture their intricate mix of innocence and experience. The results are of an unblemished purity, grace and contained eloquence...' Read the review 

 

Songs

Anne Sofie von Otter mez Bengt Forsberg pf

'A superbly vigorous and urgent account of A Hope, a wistful, sweetly voiced and played account of Spring (another well-known piece)—extraordinary intensity in the second verse—the charming account of the teasing While I wait and a deeply poetic one of the justly renowned From Monte Pincio are just three definitive interpretations towards the end of a recital that will unquestionably be one of the discs of the year and is a 'must' for any collection of songs, indeed a collection of any kind. It cannot help but afford pleasure. Don't miss it...' Read the review

 

Cello Sonata

Steven Isserlis vc Stephen Hough pf

(Hyperion)

'Isserlis and Hough balance the urgency of the opening theme of Grieg’s glorious sonata with a luminous reading of the rhapsodic second idea and everywhere their reading glints with conviction. Hough sets a slightly faster pace in the second movement than Pascal Amoyel for Bertrand (another exceptionally fine interpretation), and Isserlis is matchless in the way he tugs at the simple melody to heart-rending effect. The cellist is also deeply moving in the solo opening of the third movement before the lively Halling bursts in...' Read the review

 

Ballade in G minor

Sigurd Slåttebrekk pf

(Simax)

'His way with the Piano Concerto is magnificently assured and free of self-serving idiosyncrasy but it is in the Ballade that he achieves his greatest stature and distinction. Played on Grieg’s 1892 Steinway in Troldhaugen, these performances are of a moving poetic empathy and musical devotion...' Read the review

 

Peer Gynt Suites

BPO / Herbert von Karajan

(DG)

'Very impressive indeed. Somehow one feels that one could stretch out and touch the players, so vivid is the sound here. Peer Gynt is most beautifully done. At times you might think the wind could have been a shade more distant, particularly in the ‘By the seashore’ movement but there’s no want of atmosphere here – quite the contrary! Not to put too fine a point on it, this is a marvellous recording.'

 

In Autumn. Lyric Suite, etc 

WDR Symphony Orchestra, Cologne / Eivind Aadland 

(Audite)

'The first two discs in this ‘Complete Symphonic Works’ series were outstanding. This third is wholly exceptional. The presence of the overture In Autumn and the Old Norwegian Romance with Variations gives the programme a Beechamesque feel. But Aadland and his astonishingly well-integrated German ensemble – by this I mean that they are guided into a natural-sounding Nordic style – need fear nothing by way of competition, not even from the RPO’s dream woodwind section...' Read the review

 

And one more – if you can find it!

Piano Concerto

Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli pf New Philharmonia Orchestra / Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos

(BBC Legends)

'A sense of joyous rhapsody buoys up Michelangeli’s playing from first note to last, yet everything is founded on a bedrock of high intelligence, taste and natural authority. And I nearly forgot to mention the fabulous tone-colours he draws from the instrument. His slow movement is by turns balmy and ecstatic, and the finale has terrific drive. Scarcely a phrase that does not sound newly minted; never a note that sounds contrived or unspontaneous. And the virtuosity … ! If your hair is not standing on end in the finale’s coda I suggest an urgent medical check-up. Forget the boxy recording and the hissy background. This is a performance that entirely merits the hysterical cheers that greet it...' Read the review

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