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Hommage A Grieg Vol 3 - Brahms, Plagge, Bjorklund, Saint-saens / Dena Piano Duo

Brahms / Dena Piano Duo
Release Date: 04/30/2013 
Label:  Two-l   Catalog #: 94   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Johannes BrahmsWolfgang PlaggeTerje BjorklundCamille Saint-Saëns
Performer:  Heide GörtzTina Margareta Nilssen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Dena Piano Duo
Number of Discs: 3 
Recorded in: Multi 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  
Blu-ray Audio:  $34.99
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

"The Hommage à Grieg disc features music that is well known, fairly well recorded, and obscure in a good mix. The Brahms and Saint-Saëns come from pens of friends of Grieg; the two other works (by, aptly, Norwegian composers) were commissioned by the Dena Piano Duo. The Brahms Variations are given a warm toned, sensitive reading. Perhaps as I was brought up an orchestral player and have played in the orchestral version of this piece a number of times, my ear does miss Brahms’s way with the orchestra. But one can still, actually, revel in the variety of tone of the two pianists, and also in the stunning recording. The chordal attack of the pianists is remarkable, and the Read more textural complexities are rendered as echt -Brahmsian, something that shines through particularly in the finale, with its bell-like scales and its sense of total nobility.

Wolfgang Plagge (born 1960), a professor at the Norwegian Academy of Music, contributes Grieg metamorphosis , written in 2010. The trills of its opening, with their ensuing descending lines, seem to link directly back to the final section of the Brahms. Plagge’s world is more astringent and far more modernist, however. The booklet notes refer to the influence of Paganini (Capriccio, op. 1/24), a piece that has spawned a multitude of variation sets (including by Brahms). Plagge’s strategy is to only let the theme blossom towards the end of the piece; in this case the theme is Grieg’s “Watchman’s Song” from the Lyric Pieces , op. 12. The journey (back) to the theme is a delight, especially when the pianists scurry around the keyboard in a manner reminiscent of Lutoslawski. The writing is certainly inventive, and there is never any doubt as to the Dena Duo’s expertise in this music. The pianists sound perfectly at home. And how poignant the Grieg original sounds when it is allowed to blossom, oozing nostalgia.

An even newer piece next, from 2011, by Terje Bjørklund (born 1945). Originally drawn to jazz music, Bjørklund moved towards “serious” art music (he teaches composition and music theory at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology at Trondheim). Commissioned by the Dena Piano Duo, his Hommage has an interesting premise. It offers an “echo,” in sound and motif, of passages in Grieg’s works. Some of the works alluded to are well known: The Piano Concerto, the Ballade in G Minor for piano, op. 24. Others, less so: The String Quartet (G Minor) is also there, as is the penultimate of the Norwegian Folk Songs , op. 66. The composer wanted to convey Grieg meeting “Bartók, Stravinsky and Arvo Pärt.” There are far fewer harsh edges to this piece than to the Plagge. Traditional harmonic structures are more prevalent here, although they can morph into very individual sound structures in an instant. The gesture of droplets of notes which recurs is particularly haunting. Again, the Dena Duo seems particularly attuned to the basis of the piece in question, here a pervading melancholy which, towards the end, veers strangely near an easy-listening experience.

To round off, Saint-Saëns’s little bundle of fun, the Beethoven Variations, op. 35, of 1874. The theme is taken from the Menuetto of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata, op. 31/3 (Saint-Saëns performed Grieg’s F-Major Violin Sonata with violinist Johan Svensen in 1870). Saint-Saëns produces a virtuoso set of variations. The challenge is to deliver the music with such technical ease that one forgets the challenges, and the charm, fun, and wit come right through. Such is clearly the case here. As the variations process by, it is difficult to know whether to be amused by the composer’s expertise or to revel in the players’ grasp of wit, texture, structure, and pacing as well as by their seemingly infinite variety of tone. The fugue (around 13:30) is terrific, the lines given a Bachian sense of intent, the whole thing full of energy."

FANFARE: Colin Clarke
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Works on This Recording

Variations for 2 Pianos on a theme by Haydn, Op. 56b "St Anthony" by Johannes Brahms
Performer:  Heide Görtz (Piano), Tina Margareta Nilssen (Piano)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Dena Piano Duo
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1873; Austria 
Grieg Metamorphosis, Op. 160 by Wolfgang Plagge
Performer:  Heide Görtz (Piano), Tina Margareta Nilssen (Piano)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Dena Piano Duo
Hommage ŕ Grieg by Terje Bjorklund
Performer:  Heide Görtz (Piano), Tina Margareta Nilssen (Piano)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Dena Piano Duo
Variations for 2 Pianos on a theme of Beethoven, Op. 35 by Camille Saint-Saëns
Performer:  Heide Görtz (Piano), Tina Margareta Nilssen (Piano)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Dena Piano Duo
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1874; France 

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