GRIEG: Norwegian Dances, Op. 35; Symphonic Dances, Op. 64; Lyric Suite, Op. 54 – Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra/ Ole Kristian Ruud – BIS

by | Feb 5, 2007 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

GRIEG: Norwegian Dances, Op. 35; Symphonic Dances, Op. 64; Lyric Suite, Op. 54 – Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra/ Ole Kristian Ruud – BIS Multichannel (5.0) SACD-1291, 71:05 ****:

Recorded in Grieg Hall in Bergen, Norway, and supported by the Grieg Foundation, this is a combination of thrilling performances of the greatest authenticity plus exciting, immersing surround sound to put the listener right in the concert hall. The program is well-selected to appeal to those who enjoy the composer’s lighter symphonic works but would like to avoid yet another version of the Peer Gynt Suite or the piano concerto.  The only selection here probably qualifying as one of Grieg’s big hits is the closing March of the Dwarfs from the Lyric Suite, but it’s great fun.

The three works are tied together by all having as a major source of inspiration the folksongs and folk dances of Grieg’s Norway. He was able in these works and many others to skillfully synthesize the elements of his country’s folklore with those of serious European concert music. Grieg wrote the four Norwegian Dances for piano four hands. Seven years after they were published Hans Sitt orchestrated them and with their varied colors and great tunes they make the transition very easily.  The Symphonic Dances are also four in number, with a unifying design which almost constitutes a normal symphony form. Again, this work was originally conceived as a piano four hands vehicle, but Grieg intended from the start to orchestrate it, which he did.

The Lyric Suite originally consisted of four of Grieg’s solo piano pieces which had been orchestrated by a Wagner conductor named Anton Seidl.  Grieg made some changes in their scoring and replaced a piece called The Sound of Bells with a new opening movement titled Shepherd Boy, which also came from his piano pieces. The Nocturne movement provides a lovely lyrical break prior to the thumping approach of  the March of the Dwarfs, which sounds like it should be part of the Peer Gynt music. The orchestra’s (and the recording’s!) dynamic range on this selection is really amazing.

– John Sunier

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