Grieg: Piano Concerto - Grainger / Gupta / Bjorå
2L 2L-060-SABD (2 discs)
Grieg: Piano Concerto in A minor Op. 16, Violin Sonata, Lyrical Pieces
Percy Grainger (pianola re-performance)
Rolf Gupta (conductor)
Øyvind Bjorå (violin)
The magic of a "time machine" brings Percy Grainger's original performance back to life in this modern surround-sound recording with the Kristiansand Symphony Orchestra conducted by Rolf Gupta. Edvard Grieg himself bears witness to the validity and authenticity of Grainger's interpretation through his own enthusiastic endorsement: "I had to become sixty-four years old to hear Norwegian piano music interpreted so understandingly and brilliantly. He breaks new ground for himself, for me, and for Norway. And then this enchanting, profound, serious, and childlike naturalness! What a joy to gain a young friend with such qualities!"
In 2007, conductor Rolf Gupta gave the first Norwegian performance of Edvard Grieg's Piano Concerto in A minor with the legendary Australian pianist Percy Grainger (1882-1961) as the posthumous soloist. On this recording, the Kristiansand Symphony Orchestra accompanies Grainger's original and controversial interpretation of the concerto. In addition, the violinist Øyvind Bjorå and pianolist Rex Lawson perform Grieg's Violin Sonata in C minor. The recording also includes a handful of Grieg's Lyric Pieces, performed by the composer himself. Astonishingly, these performances have not been available to the public until now.
Two different instruments have facilitated Grainger's and Grieg's encounters with the KSO/Gupta in modern times. Grainger plays on a form of musical time machine, the Duo-Art reproducing piano, which is something like an analogue predecessor of the computer, powered by an electric suction pump, and controlled automatically by perforated rolls of paper. Grieg, on the other hand, has been restored to life by means of a foot-pedalled pianola, played by Rex Lawson. For this recording, both instruments were fitted in front of a Steinway concert grand piano and re-performed the playing of Grainger in 1921 and Grieg in 1906.
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Review by John Broggio - October 7, 2009
A massive disappointment.
The piano concerto is "played" by Percy Grainger via a piano roll and is accompanied by the Kristiansand Symfoniorkester and Rolf Gupta. The rendition of Grainger is rather scrappy by the standards of today and the overall sonic image is not helped by the size of orchestra; it is simply far too small when individual string instruments can be heard instead of a solid body of tone. The effect is exacerbated by their surround seating devised by 2L - strings of 7/4/3/5/3 are just too small for late Romantic composers. In no way does it compare favourably to Grieg: Piano Concerto, Symphony, In Autumn - Ogawa / Ruud for the concerto.
Of some historical interest is the inclusion of four miniatures marked up by Grieg himself and "played" thanks to the help of the noted pianolist Rex Lawson. These are less scrupulous to the score than one might expect, which provides authenticists with an interesting dilemma - which is more important the performing style or the score? A further piano roll of Percy Grainger performing Grieg completes the miniatures presented on this disc. More miniatures are available as a download after entering a code supplied in the accompanying booklet.
The final work is the third violin sonata played by Øyvind Bjorå, "accompanied" by Rex Lawson who is interpreting an unmarked piano roll. It must be said that Bjorå and Lawson do not really have a meeting of minds in their interpretation and the unnatural perfection of the piano part just make the whole performance sound stilted.
The sound is very good, as usual from 2L, but as noted in the performance of the concerto this can be a double-edged sword.
Not recommended unless you must have the Grieg miniatures.
Copyright © 2009 John Broggio and HRAudio.net