GRIEG: 20 Lyric Pieces – David Rubinstein, piano – Musicus M1009, 65:29 [www.DavidRubinstein.net] **** :
Recorded 22 December 2011 at Rubenstein Hall, El Segundo, California, this extended group of Grieg’s Lyric Pieces, composed in several books between 1866-1901, stands as a kind of alternative to past collections by Artur Rubinstein, Zoltan Koscis, and Emil Gilels. Some play as staccato etudes, like Elves’ Dance, Op. 12, No. 4, while the lovely Berceuse, Op. 38, No. 1 enjoys legato phrasing and a decided Norwegian ethos. Grieg’s plastic approach to harmonic development often prefigures Debussy and moments in Scriabin. Both Butterfly, Op. 43, No. 1 and Little Bird, Op. 43, No. 4 engage us in fluttering wrist articulation and fleet digital prowess, as does The Brook, Op. 62, No. 4. Rubinstein’s touch is not so gossamer as Gieseking’s nor as sinewy as Richter’s, but it has crisp intonation and breathed spaces, as in Erotik, Op. 43, No. 5.
To Spring, Op. 43, No. 6, a perennial keyboard favorite, receives from Rubinstein a delicate patina, much as it has always elicited from the likes of Gieseking and Michelangeli. Grieg’s Valse-Impromptu, Op. 47, No. 1 has had fewer realizations on disc, and it makes a refined angular alternative to a piece of the same name by Franz Liszt. Almost Gershwinesque, the Album Leaf, Op. 47, No. 2 moves in subtle figures in the manner of a gentle halling, a Norwegian dance form. Melody, Op. 47, No. 3 invokes the familiar ethos of Peer Gynt or the Piano Concerto and Grieg’s inimitable voice touched perhaps by Tchaikovsky. The last of the Op. 47 set, No. 7, Elegy, takes a wry Slavic turn in the harmony, somewhere between Rachmaninov and Prokofiev.
The three pieces from Op. 54 remind us that Grieg set the majority of these in orchestral form as part of his Lyric Suite. Peasant’s March, Scherzo, and Bell-Ringing each contribute to the alternately cantabile and militant energies in these well wrought miniatures, the last pointing to Ravel. Heimweh (Homesickness), Op. 57, No. 6 projects its own harmonic universe, at first other-worldly, then impishly folkish. Gieseking had been a purveyor of the French Serenade, Op. 62, No. 3; Rubinstein makes it sound like a declarative miniature anticipatory of young Debussy. From Days of Youth, Op. 65, No. 1 casts a modal glow on figures that suggest the broken patterns in Medtner or even Satie, except that the scale looms larger, like a virtuoso ballade with a dervish dance mid-section. Homeward, Op. 62, No. 6 counters the pathos of Heimweh, a joyful gondola-song or halling in the same high spirits as the eternal Wedding Day at Troldhaugen, Op. 65, No. 6 that concludes this satisfying survey from David Rubinstein.
An excellent survey of a favorite Chopin genre…