GRIEG: Holberg Suite; Two Elegiac Melodies; Two Melodies Op. 53; Two Nordic Melodies; Two Lyric Pieces – Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra/ Ole Kristian Ruud – BIS

by | Jan 3, 2008 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

GRIEG: Holberg Suite; Two Elegiac Melodies; Two Melodies Op. 53; Two Nordic Melodies; Two Lyric Pieces – Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra/ Ole Kristian Ruud – BIS multichannel SACD-1491, 59:15 ***** [Distr. by Qualiton]:

Aside from his composing, Grieg was primarily a pianist, but he had a brother who was a cellist who helped him in his writing for the string section.  He later arranged many of his original pieces and other works for string orchestra and became very specific in instructions to the players, use of dynamics and so forth. Among the technical tricks that make his string orchestra pieces so rich and varied-sounding are the use of open strings, special fingering, double-stopping, and dividing of the different voices – such as having having half of the first violins play at octave apart from the other half.

The Holberg Suite is the opener here and probably the best-known of Grieg’s works for strings, although it too began as a piano suite. The highly virtuosic five-movement suite makes use of baroque and rococo forms but is echt Grieg otherwise. The piece has been played so much that for me it had almost become something to avoid – like Pachelbel’s Canon – but the Norwegian musicians here play with such gusto and the surround recording portrays such a rich string fabric that the 20 minutes was pure pleasure.

The other melodies transcribed for strings were either originally piano pieces or songs for voice and piano. Many of them will sound familiar, even to non-Scandinavian ears. The second of the Two Nordic Melodies is an extremely catchy country dance, which follows after a Cow Keeper’s Tune. The Norwegian title of both is Kulokk & Stabbelaten, and Stravinsky used the latter tune in his Four Norwegian Moods.  The recording was made in Grieg Hall in Bergen.  You can’t find much more authentic Norwegian Grieg than this disc!

 – John Sunier

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