Grieg: Complete Symphonic Works Vol. 2 - Aadland
Edvard Grieg: 2 Elegiac Melodies Op. 34, Holberg Suite Op. 40, 2 Melodies Op. 53, 2 Nordic Melodies Op. 63
Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra
Eivind Aadland (conductor)
"The flavour of this music is in my blood",says the conductor Eivind Aadland, who grew up in Grieg's hometown of Bergen and who today is an international artist. Grieg studied in Leipzig and created a form of Nordic music language - by integrating into his music many songs and dances of his native land - at a time when the Norwegian language itself was in turmoil and the country was seeking political independence from Sweden.
This SACD is the second volume in audite's five-part recording series of Grieg's complete symphonic works with Eivind Aadland and the WDR Sinfonieorchester.These works for string orchestra - a genre which Grieg mastered like no other -are chiefly arrangements of songs and piano pieces. Whereas the song arrangements of the Elegiac Melodies Op.34 and the Two Melodies Op. 53 were a form of "export editions" for non-Scandinavian countries (where they were extremely popular, even during Grieg's lifetime), the famous suite From Holberg's Time Op. 40 is a homage to Ludvig Holberg, the caustic "Molière of the North", whose 200th birthday was celebrated in Bergen in 1884. For this occasion, Grieg composed a suite "in the old style" on dance forms of the late baroque (Holberg's own time) without, however, denying his own, romantic style. The latest work in this selection, the Two Nordic Melodies Op.63, was written by the 51-year-old Grieg who was touring internationally as a conductor and who, in the absence of major works, broadened his repertoire with smaller pieces.
audite'scomplete edition includes Grieg's symphonic works as well as two suites from his incidental music, compiled by the composer himself specifically for concert use.
Review by John Miller - September 28, 2011
For the second volume in their ongoing series of Grieg's Complete Symphonic Works with the WDR Symphony Orchestra of Cologne, Aadland offers a disc devoted to Grieg's transcriptions of his songs and piano works for string orchestra. Grieg, an ardent and active Norwegian Nationalist, was well aware that the Norwegian texts of this songs suffered all the problems of using a minority language, in terms of public acceptance outside Norway. His transcriptions were designed to carry abroad the spirit of Norwegian rural life and tradition, as well as showing off Norwegian art in the form of his own music. The song arrangements are so deftly done that one might think that the string orchestra was their original source. This also applies to the five movement Suite, 'In Holberg's Time' originally for piano solo, a commission for commemorating the 200th Anniversary of Baron Ludwig Holberg, a fellow citizen of Bergen and an honoured writer, essayist, philosopher, historian and playwright.
As a violinist (former concertmaster of the Bergen Philharmonic) and steeped in Norwegian folk music from his earliest days, Aadland is particularly well-suited to carefully preparing his string orchestra for this programme. In the notes, he tells us that "the flavour of this music is in my blood", and goes on to tell us how he brought the essence of Norwegian fiddle music into Grieg's romanticised idiom. For example, the second part of Op. 63 (Track 12), he has the folk song's opening played without vibrato which better simulates the tuning up of a fiddle. There are several other places where he uses vibrato-less sound, and this has a marked effect in producing a much earthier, folklorist timbre than we usually hear.
Aadland's programme is very similar to Ruud's superb disc in the BIS complete symphonic works (Grieg: Holberg Suite, Music for Strings - Ruud). Fortunately, the standard of playing from the Cologne strings is as good as, if not better in some respects, than the Bergen strings. Although Adland's tempi are only slightly faster than Ruuds, the articulation and bowing of the WDR are notably crisper and thus the rhythmic propulsion is more gripping, and folksy impressions more convincing. Grieg's precise dynamic markings are obeyed meticulously.
At times, the players reach an almost Elgarian passion at climaxes, bringing to mind Elgar's 'Introduction and Allegro for Strings' in their playing of the Holberg Suite. Aadland also opens up the often very diverse textures Grieg conjures up, by bringing out the layering more clearly, and also floating some beautiful inner voice counter-melodies. A fine example of this is in the Holburg Suite Prelude, where there is a lovely falling cello tune below the violins, which is hardly audible in Ruud's account, unless you are listening very closely. Another example of added colour is found in the chilliness of the sul ponticello section at No. 6 in the Peters score of 'The Last Spring', where the winter-gripped poet recollects the warmer season. And the Op. 53 'Two Melodies' (unaccountably rarely heard and of amazing beauty) are given exquisite renditions, heartfelt and with moments of the utmost delicacy.
Given a recording which is vivid, immediate and with divided violins across the stage, not a wit inferior to Ruud's, this disc thrilled me time after time. Wonderful music, lovingly played and with a recording to match. What more can I say?
Copyright © 2011 John Miller and HRAudio.net