GRIEG Violin Sonatas Nos 1 - 3
These are consistently enjoyable performances. The two young Norwegians play with idiomatic style, and give the impression of absorbing and expressing every aspect of the music. The eagerness with which they set off at the start of Op. 8’s first Allegro sets the tone; the doloroso opening of Op. 13, the delicacy and serenity of the E major section of that sonata’s middle movement, and the exciting “Hall of the Mountain King” atmosphere they generate in the finale of Op. 45 – these are just a few of the places where Kraggerud and Kjekshus convince us they’ve found exactly the right sound and manner of expression.
Of the considerable number of available recordings of the three sonatas, the one by Dumay and Pires is my favourite by some margin. They’re magnificently recorded, causing one to regret the slight lack of brilliance in the new Naxos recording and wish that the violin in particular had been given a more glamorous presence. And the Pires/Dumay performances are outstanding, too; they’re as deeply involved as the Norwegians but play with far greater freedom and a wonderfully uninhibited range of expression. They would remain my overall recommendation, but they do sometimes come dangerously close to guying the music. Kraggerud’s account of the ‘big tune’ in the last movement of Op. 45, respecting all Grieg’s marks of expression and phrasing, has a nobility that Dumay, more heart-on-sleeve and cavalier about dynamics and slurs, misses. The new disc is, in short, highly recommendable – as a contrast to Dumay/Pires or simply as an excellent bargain. '