GRIEG Lyric Pieces – Gilels
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. Listen to the silvery transparency he achieves at 0'42'' in Solitary traveller (and again 11 bars later), to bittersweet reverie resolved in total lucidity, or to Melody, where he turns the composer’s gentle allegretto into an acute sense of elegy, autumnal withdrawal and introspection. With what apparent ease he locates the Scherzo’s central piu tranquillo, making it break like some magical dawn across the music’s hallucinatory flight. His realignment of voices at the end of Ballad captures precisely the way sadness turns to grief, to an eternal sense of loss, and – in supreme contrast – his Puck, taken at an electrifying pace, glints with malevolence as well as more acceptable pranks. At your feet, music which at times might be mistaken for one of Liszt’s late, dark-hued utterances, quivers with barely suppressed ardour and in the final Remembrances, where Grieg transforms his opening Arietta into the most subtle valediction, Gilels registers every nuance and modulation with an astonishing yet unobtrusive sensitivity.
Never can Debussy’s sniping estimate of Grieg, “a pink bonbon filled with snow” (or DG’s dreary accompanying notes), have seemed wider of the mark. The recordings remain as impeccable as the playing. This is a disc for everyone’s desert island.'