Notes and Editorial Reviews
Throughout modern musical history, a handful of composers garnish universal admiration among fellow artists, regardless of style or time. Bach and Haydn are high in the pantheon, as is Beethoven, but no single musician is as idolized as Mozart. Above and beyond his appeal to a general public, Mozart will always be the composer’s composer, by virtue of his unequalled technical virtuosity. His praises are sung by a wide variety of musicians who claimed him as an essential inspiration, including Chopin, Tchaikovsky, Ravel, Stravinsky, and Strauss.
Edvard Grieg frequently used the music of Mozart as a teaching aid, and placed his music ahead of figures that were much more highly regarded at the end of the 19th century, including
Beethoven and Wagner. “He creates like a God, without pain.” It would seem, then, an act of heresy to tinker with a God’s work, but here we are; age-of-reason Vienna, meet fin-de-siecle Norway. Peter Rabinowitz reviewed this same release in Fanfare 29:6, and tried his best to dismiss the material as hopelessly naive, but seemed rather won over in the end. His initial response is that it is “an aesthetic outrage,” but he finally admits that “it’s all perversely attractive . . . loony as this is, it’s also a great deal of fun, with surprise following surprise as the music totters along.” I more easily allowed myself to be won over by the undeniable charm of the music. For the most part, I hear an amicable meeting of two great musical minds (albeit, Mozart was by far the superior), in an almost conversational encounter. Really, there is nothing to be outraged over, as Grieg was always deeply admiring of Mozart, and his craft is often ingenious. Imagine strings of music from, say, the Holberg Suite, laid across the Mozart scores like so much confetti. The effect of his tinkering is often delicate, and so charming you have to smile. Certainly, there are harmonic and structural additions that Mozart would not have used, and just as certainly, it is Mozart’s vision that is correct, and to which we return. The one nearly unlistenable work is the Fantasy, in which Mozart’s stark, frighteningly bleak music is made muddy and greatly diminished in power by Grieg’s completely superfluous notes.
Evelinde Trenkner and Sontraud Speidel do a superb job conveying this unusual material with elegance and clarity. The performances of the Peer Gynt piano-version suites are likewise crisply dispatched and wisely interpreted. For some reason, I did not receive the SACD version for review that Rabinowitz listened to, but the sound was nevertheless clear and lifelike, as is usual with this label.
FANFARE: Peter Burwasser
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