Grieg Songs

Author: 
Alan Blyth

GRIEG Songs – von Otter

  • Haugtussa
  • Melodies of the Heart, No. 1, Two brown eyes (To brune øjne)
  • Melodies of the Heart, No. 3, I love but thee (Jeg elsker dig)
  • (6) Songs, No. 2, A swan (En svane)
  • (6) Songs, No. 4, With a waterlily (Med en vandlije)
  • (5) Songs, No. 1, Hope (Et håb)
  • (12) Songs, No. 2, Last Spring (Våren)
  • (12) Songs, No. 5, Beside the stream (Langs ei å)
  • (6) Songs, No. 1, From Monte Pincio (Fra Monte Pincio)
  • (6) Songs
  • (6) Songs, No. 6, Spring showers (Forårsregn)
  • (5) Songs, No. 3, On the Water (Mens jeg venter)
  • (7) Children's Songs, Farmyard Song (Lok)

I shall be lucky if I review a more satisfying disc this year. Here we have a singer at the peak of her career glorying in what she can accomplish with her voice and deploying it in repertory she knows well and obviously loves. With performances of this kind of conviction Grieg in this celebratory year—emerges as a first-rank composer in the genre. For every mood, for every nuance of meaning, von Otter finds the right expression and has the wherewithal to fulfil her ambitious intentions.
Take the Haugtussa cycle, which Grieg considered his greatest achievement in this sphere of writing. Von Otter projects her imagination of the visionary herd-girl with absolute conviction, inflecting the text with a wonderful breadth and eloquence. She is no less successful in the German settings that follow. The sad depths of ''One day, my thought'' from Six Songs, Op. 48 also set memorably by Wolf in his Spanish Songbook, the hopelessness of Goethe's ''The time of roses'' (Op. 48 No. 5), a setting of great beauty are encompassed with unfettered ease, but so are the lighter pleasures of Lauf der Welt. Even the familiar ''A dream'' (Op. 48 No. 6) emerges new-minted in von Otter's daringly big-boned reading, where the engineers, as throughout, have—for once today—allowed a voice to ring out at full pressure without taking fright. In this group, as throughout, von Otter's readings are immeasurably enhanced by the high imagination of Bengt Forsberg's playing: he confirms that he is one of the most thoughtful and spontaneous accompanists around today—a free-ranging spirit like his Swedish compatriot.
The pair also breathe fresh life into the famous A swan, where von Otter, as often elsewhere, displays fine control of mezza voce. In the almost as familiar With a waterlily, another superb Ibsen setting, the questing spirit expressed in the music is marvellously seconded by the performers. Yet even then the pleasures aren't at an end. 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 more definitive interpretations towards the end of a recital that will unquestionably be one of my 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.'

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