Grieg (The) Complete Piano Works

This milestone complete Lyric Pieces compels though sweetness is avoided

Author: 
Mike Ashman

Grieg (The) Complete Piano Works

  • Lyric Pieces, Book 1
  • Lyric Pieces, Book 2
  • Lyric Pieces, Book 3
  • Lyric Pieces, Book 4
  • Lyric Pieces, Book 5
  • Lyric Pieces, Book 6
  • Lyric Pieces, Book 7
  • Lyric Pieces, Book 8
  • Lyric Pieces, Book 9
  • Lyric Pieces, Book 10
  • (4) Pieces for Piano
  • (6) Poetic tone-pictures
  • (4) Humoresques
  • Sonata for Piano
  • (25) Norwegian Folksongs and Dances
  • (3) Pictures from life in the country
  • (4) Album Leaves
  • (2) Improvisations on Norwegian Folksongs
  • Ballade, 'in the form of variations on a Norwegian melody'
  • Peer Gynt Suite No. 1
  • Peer Gynt Suite No. 2
  • (3) Pieces from 'Sigurd Jorsalfar'
  • Holberg Suite
  • (2) Elegiac Melodies
  • Waltz Caprices
  • Bønn (Prayer)
  • Tempeldans (Temple Dance)
  • (2) Nordic Melodies
  • (19) Norwegian Folksongs
  • Transcriptions of Original Songs I
  • Transcriptions of Original Songs II
  • (17) Norwegian peasant dances
  • Stimmungen
  • (3) Piano Pieces
  • Concerto for Piano and Orchestra
  • Norwegian Dances
  • (2) Melodies
  • (6) Norwegian Mountain Melodies
  • Concerto for Piano and Orchestra
  • Larvik's Polka
  • (23) Short Pieces
  • (3) Piano Pieces
  • Agitato
  • Norway's Melodies, No. 8 Margaret's Cradle Song (Op. 15/1)
  • Norway's Melodies, No. 14 Norwegian Sailors' Song (CW124)
  • Norway's Melodies, No. 17 Onward (Op. 12/8)
  • Norway's Melodies, No. 38 The Young Birch Tree (Op. 18/6)
  • Norway's Melodies, No. 57 The Bear Hunter (CW12)
  • Norway's Melodies, No. 71 I love but thee (Op. 5/3)
  • Norway's Melodies, No. 90 Wood Wandering (Op. 18/1)
  • Norway's Melodies, No. 95 Two Brown Eyes (Op. 5/1)
  • Norway's Melodies, No. 113 Serenade for Welhaven (Op. 18/9)
  • Norway's Melodies, No. 150 The First Meeting (Op. 21/1)
  • Peer Gynt, Dance of the Mountain King's Daughter
  • Peer Gynt, Death of Aase
  • Peer Gynt, Arab Dance
  • Peer Gynt, Anitra's Dance
  • Peer Gynt, Solvejg's Song
  • Album Leaf
  • Entry March of the Boyars
  • Peer Gynt, Death of Aase
  • Peer Gynt, Arab Dance
  • Peer Gynt, Anitra's Dance
  • Peer Gynt, Solvejg's Song
  • Album Leaf
  • Entry March of the Boyars

Norwegian pianist Eva Knardahl's recordings of Grieg's complete music for solo piano, mostly recorded in Sweden's Nacka Hall and here collected together as a posthumous tribute to the artist, were a milestone when first released on LP at the end of the 1970s. An oeuvre of which one part was almost too well known and the remainder hardly ever considered outside of Norway was available to be heard, as Grieg surely hoped, as an entity.

The backbone of the collection is the 10 books of 66 Lyric Pieces. Beautifully described in these pages by Bryce Morrison as a “confessional diary filled with bittersweet confidences”, they occupied Grieg between the mid-1860s (the decade that would end with the first version of the Piano Concerto) and 1901. In this series of often forward-looking impressionist miniatures that have fascinated as many great pianists as they have repelled, Grieg dwelt on his infidelity to his beloved country or even to his sometimes less than beloved wife, or on his creative frustrations, or on his sorrow about the loss of relatives.

To them Knardahl brings a forthrightness and colour - and sometimes a rustic brio - that would stop Debussy's “pink bonbons stuffed with snow” jibe dead in its tracks. If she tends to downplay the sweetness of the melodies, it seems in order to bring out the “Ibsenesque” quality that Glenn Gould (a typically iconoclastic and trenchant admirer of this music) liked to champion. Intriguingly, 20 years later - in an age far less self-conscious about letting Romantic music speak out its emotions - it's this very sweetness which is a prominent, and idiomatic, feature of Leif Ove Andsnes's selection of the Pieces on Grieg's own piano (EMI, 4/02).

Occasionally Knardahl's quest for an unvarnished Grieg becomes cool and measured - a historian proposing a thesis rather than an artist throwing herself into recreative performance. The rival complete set by Einar Steen-Nøkleberg (made by Naxos's Norwegian wing in the 1990s) can be fierier, less intellectual. Knardahl's set has the concentrated feel of a survey of the entire opus and maintains a high consistency and idiom of performance. It also contains gems like the first version of the Piano Concerto (audible differences begin in the first bar), a neatly classical view of the Holberg Suite and extensive notes by Grieg scholar and editor supreme Dag Schjelderup-Ebbe.

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