To mark the centennial of Grieg's death in 1907, EMI has reissued Leif Ove Andsnes' 2002 A minor concerto with Mariss Jansons and the Berlin Philharmonic (originally coupled with the Schumann A minor) alongside six Lyric Pieces culled from 2001 sessions recorded on Grieg's piano on location at the composer's villa in Troldhaugen. I reviewed their original CD incarnations for Classicstoday.com, and if anything my favorable comments ring truer with time. However, a July, 2007 recording of the G minor Ballade provides a new and welcome addition to Andsnes' discography.
In contrast to the uncluttered sentiment and fiery bravura that distinguish the Ballade's classic historic recordings by Leopold Godowsky and Arthur Rubinstein,Read more Andsnes looks the music's darker undercurrents squarely in the eye, as his rather austere yet beautifully shaded shaping of the folk-song theme reveals. Notice also the yearning quality Andsnes brings to Variation Two's descending two-note phrases while at the same time bathing the background filigree in ravishing colors.
At first Variation Four scintillates less than you'd expect, but the extra kick and characterization in the left hand's juicy cross-rhythms more than compensate. The Liszt-like climaxes manage to exude both impulsive energy and aristocratic refinement, with Andsnes holding out that strange, disruptive low E-flat forever and a day. To be sure, collectors who want the Ballade but already own the aforementioned concerto and Lyric Pieces discs may not wish to shell out full price for just 19-plus minutes of new material. That, dear readers, is why I take digital downloads seriously!
Concerto for Piano in A minor, Op. 16by Edvard Grieg Performer:
Leif Ove Andsnes (Piano)
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic Written: 1868/1907; Norway Venue: Philharmonie, Berlin, Germany Length: 12 Minutes 44 Secs. Notes: Philharmonie, Berlin, Germany (12/20/2002 - 12/22/2002)
Ballade for Piano in G minor, Op. 24by Edvard Grieg Performer:
Leif Ove Andsnes (Piano)
Period: Romantic Written: 1875-1876; Norway Date of Recording: 07/15/2007 Venue: Potton Hall, Suffolk, England Length: 19 Minutes 20 Secs.
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