GRIEG: Lyric Pieces (arr. E. Bertrand and P. Amoyel); Cello Sonata in A Minor, Op. 36; Intermezzo in A Minor; Allegretto in E Major – Emmanuelle Bertrand, cello/ Pascal Amoyel, piano – Harmonia mundi

by | Nov 8, 2008 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

GRIEG: Lyric Pieces (arr. E. Bertrand and P. Amoyel); Cello Sonata in A Minor, Op. 36; Intermezzo in A Minor; Allegretto in E Major – Emmanuelle Bertrand, cello/ Pascal Amoyel, piano – Harmonia mundi HMC 901986, 75:00 ****:


Recorded July 2007, this elegant recital by Bertrand and Amoyel constitutes the equivalent of a Schubertiad, only from the pen Edvard Grieg (1843-1907), in whom the duple-meter halling replaces the waltz-like laendler. Cellist Bertrand and pianist Amoyel have cast eleven of the Lyric Pieces for solo keyboard as duets, arranged chronologically from the tiny Arietta, Op. 12, No. 1 of 1867 to the nostalgic waltz, Remembrance, Op. 71, No. 7 of 1901, which looks back precisely at the Arietta. The Allegretto derives from Grieg’s own Third Violin Sonata, here transcribed by the composer himself, while the Intermezzo is an original piece for cello and piano previously unrecorded.

The big work on this record is the Cello Sonata (1882), a luminously powerful piece that preserves the sonority and expressive agility of the instrument by cross-fertilizing themes and luscious harmonies hearkening to the Piano Concerto, Sigurd Jorsalfar, and Peer Gynt, even as it makes its own raptures. The passionately chromatic first movement, Allegro agitato,  allows us a wonderful repose in its second theme, a magical moment of ensemble for the two youthful partners. Even the relatively serene second movement moves to a feverish Poco piu mosso climax, fff, then returns to its meditative beginnings. The last movement, Allegro molto e marcato, dances in folk style, the piano part exploding in kaleidoscopic array and then waxing plaintive in tales of an old grandmother. While Grieg never warmed up to this brilliant sonata, he did recall with fondness his having played it with a worthy soloist in Pablo Casals.

Several of the Lyric Pieces, too, intimate at others’ works, like Voglein, Op. 43, No. 4, with its nervous flutters from Schumann’s The Prophet Bird; and then the Droemmsyn, Op. 62, No. 5, whose piano line more than hints at Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. Always a master harmonist, Grieg elicits marvelous colors in pieces like Geheimnis, Op. 57, No. 4, Bertrand’s playing near the bridge; in Heimweh, Op. 57, No. 6 she plays col legno. When Bertrand tunes up the cello, scordatura, the music gains a waspish, folksy element–as in the two excerpts from the Op. 54 Lyric Suite–similar to the lusty drone of his violin soli in Peer Gynt. The most extended of the Lyric Pieces, Entschwundene Tage (“Vanished Days”), inverts the singer’s relationship of the two instruments, allowing Amoyel’s keyboard to lull us with vocal beauty while the cello adds rhythmic thrusts.  

–Gary Lemco

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