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Grieg: Complete Symphonic Works Vol. 5 - Tilling, Lie, Aadland

Grieg: Complete Symphonic Works Vol. 5 - Tilling, Lie, Aadland

Audite  92.671

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Orchestral


Grieg: Complete Symphonic Works Vol. 5

Camilla Tilling, soprano
Tom Erik Lie, baritone
WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln
Eivind Aadland


This recording gathers several important examples of the less familiar Edvard Grieg as composer of songs with orchestra. Soprano Camilla Tilling plays a leading part in this fifth and final volume of Audite's complete recording of Grieg s orchestral works: although Grieg drew on his own songs with orchestra or piano for the 'Six Orchestral Songs', this set forms an independent, elegiacally-hued cycle reflecting the core of Grieg s personality. It includes not only two songs from the incidental music to 'Peer Gynt' (Solveig's Song and Solveig's Lullaby) but also transcriptions of solemn piano songs such as the Roman ballad 'From Monte Pincio', or the memory of the short-lived Norwegian patriot Henrik Wergeland, to whom the final song (sung by Tom Erik Lie) is dedicated. Cities such as Oslo and Bergen, where Grieg worked as a conductor, did not provide inspiration for his compositions: in order to be able to write, he travelled to the countryside. He particularly loved the wild region of Hardanger in West Norway, where he found the most original folk music and where he spent several summers. Here, he composed not only his 'Norwegian Dances', but also the short orchestral ballad 'Den Bergtekne' (The Mountain Thrall), in which Grieg portrays himself as a restless poet, at odds with love.

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Review by John Miller - October 21, 2015

The final volume of Aadland's remarkable Complete Symphonic Works of Grieg is here. Not a collection remaining of odds and sods, as some might expect, but a delightful programme centred on Grieg's arrangements of some of his loveliest songs for orchestra and voice.

The bulk of singing is carried by the very welcome Swedish soprano Camilla Tilling, who is in her element here. The not so often played ballad 'Mountain Thrall' Op. 32, is sung with similar élan by baritone Tom Erik Lie. One thing is missing from this volume, and that is the poetic texts for each vocal item. A possible reason is the 28 page booklet, already full of information in German and English, making it difficult to add a lot more 2-language columns to fit in a neat 3-gate digipak. However, I feel that the eloquence of Grieg's music here speaks for itself, quite sufficiently following the 'symphonic' idiom of the music.

On his arrival, Eivind Aadland had to spend time with the WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln, guiding them into a natural-sounding Nordic style, sonce for many years there has been something of a lack of performances in Germany of music emanating from Norway and other Baltic neighbours. The resultsof his training have been marvellous. I was particularly affected by the many quiet passages in Grieg's work, here delivered quite ravishingly with no apparent loss of tonal quality. These truly low dynamic ranges provide a real contrast with Grieg's penchant for his generally short but powerful crescendos, making the loud parts really effective. You can hear this particularly in 'The Mountain Thrall' and 'Norwegian Dances' nos. 1 & 4. Throughout this programme, Aadland's grip on the orchestra is profound, with sharp attacks, unity of level in drawn-out crescendos and crisp rhythms in those passages which are based on Norwegian folk styles.

Grieg's exquisite musical commentaries on the poems he was most attracted to in 'Six Songs With Orchestra' is treated with love and emotion in Tilling's renderings. Her 'Solveig's Song' is of course taken from Ibsen's timeless play 'Peer Gynt' and catches the slender, tragic character of Solveig, deeply in love with Peer but lost because of his leaving her to continue his journey. You can also hear the song tune in the orchestral Prelude to Act 1 (Track 1), but in the first of 'Six Songs for Orchestra', the orchestration clearly indicates Solveig's location in the Orient. In the following song, 'Solveig's Cradle Song', Tilling's lightly tender, smiling voice brought a tear to my eye, aided by the velvety strings, some of which are muted.

Tom Erik Lie's dark, flexible voice is just right for 'Den Bergtekne' for baritone, 2 horns, and string orchestra. This ballad demonstrates Grieg's ability to draw together Music, Folklore, Landscape and Norwegian Identity, and he had a strong affection for the work. After one performance of it, he wrote "The Mountain Thrall... sounded much better than I have ever heard it before. The ensemble was so well-unified, with beautiful 'pianos' and climaxes. The legend of the giants had such a vividly demonic effect that I was quite carried away myself... in this work I have done one of the few good deeds of my life". Much of this might well apply to the version on this SACD.

As a finale for this disc, and therefore of the 5 Volumes of orchestral works, the Norwegian Dances op. 35 are given one of the most convincing versions I have heard; exciting and colourful, yet subtle in moods. The fast movements (1 & 5) are raucous and brilliantly played, while the inner movements are quieter and more graceful, the third movement at times suggesting a take-off of a ballet by Delibes.

Although the recordings were taken in four sessions from 2012-2014, they have managed to be notably similar in their respect of placing the orchestra and microphones in the fine acoustic of the Philharmonie hall in Cologne, except the final 4 tracks (Norwegian Dances), which were rather surprisingly louder than expected, the rest of the disc having need for some extra volume to fully expose the orchestra. Once settled, however, the recordings are splendidly focussed and realistic, just as the rest of the 5 volumes.

This disc reflects the deep affection of Aadland for Grieg's music, and he clearly has passed this on to the WDR Sinfonieorchester. I think it is the most consistent of other such compilations, and I'm sure that owners of previous volumes will be delighted with Version 5 as a delectable end to the Aadland cycle. I now want to go back and listen to them from the start. I also shall miss the sequence of moody, colourful sketches by Norway's most famous painter Edvard Munch on the covers. All together, essential for Grieg lovers.

Copyright © 2015 John Miller and HRAudio.net

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Comment by hiredfox - October 29, 2015 (1 of 1)

It seems to have been a battle for Audite to keep this survey going in the SACD format as apart from this disc and its forerunner the label has just about abandoned the format. Although readers will be unaware of this, I have bombarded their PR team (Sabine Weidermann) with e-mails over a 2/3 year period to entreat that the set be completed in SACD, so hope that in a small way my pleas have contributed to this outcome.

I am not so confident about SQ as John seems to have been; certainly in stereo on a truly high end system it ranks only about 3.5 / 5 in my estimation. Audite used a quite low res PCM recording format a few years ago (20 bit), whether that is still the case or not I know not.