Grieg Peer Gynt
Paavo Järvi here follows his father, Neeme, in recording Grieg’s Peer Gynt music substantially complete but, where Järvi senior on DG included even the items involving substantial sections of dialogue, with actors, Järvi junior has opted for what will be, for many, the ideal compromise. There are many discs which offer more than the two popular orchestral suites, but Paavo Järvi’s selection of 20 numbers is more generous than direct rivals. If overall Neeme Järvi is a degree cooler and more restrained, and captures the folk element more vividly, with the rustic violin parts more rasping, his son compensates in the extra warmth of his performances, helped by full, forward sound, recorded in a rather reverberant acoustic.
His account of the celebrated ‘In the Hall of the Mountain King’ is even more exciting than his father’s with a wild accelerando and vigorous vocal contributions reminding me of a vintage Sir Thomas Beecham disc, one of the first to include vocal items. Here, and throughout the selection, the Estonian choruses sing with splendid attack, and though their roles are limited, the three soloists are first-rate, too. The baritone, Peter Mattei, gives a virile portrait of Peer Gynt in his ‘Serenade’, while the singer on the DG set has a far thinner voice. If Camilla Tilling as Solveig is less pure and sweet than Barbara Bonney on DG, with a tendency to slide up to exposed notes, the warmth of her singing is never in doubt. The rich mezzo of Charlotte Hellekant as Anitra is even finer, making one regret that the part is relatively brief.
As to the numbers made popular in the orchestral suites, Paavo Järvi in ‘The Death of Åse’ underlines the phrasing more heavily than his father, who is lighter, too, in the evocative picture of ‘Morning’. Similarly, Paavo is beefier and livelier in ‘Anitra’s Dance’. The new Virgin disc from Estonia can be warmly recommended to those who want a single disc of virtually all the significant music that Grieg composed for Ibsen’s play.