This superb disc serves as an overview of Leif Ove Andsnes’ performances of Edvard Grieg’s piano works, and while the Piano Concerto and Lyric Pieces are culled from previous releases, the Four Ballades are new recordings, making this disc a very desirable addition to one’s collection. The recordings are all uniformly superb; I dare say the Piano Concerto is darn well near-definitive, and the Mariss Jansons-led Berlin Philharmonic gives this piece the requisite bravado throughout. Leif Ove Andsnes offers all these works incredibly sympathetic and idiomatic performances, and his playing is beyond reproach. For an even added dose of authenticity, the six selections taken from Grieg’s Lyric Pieces are played on Grieg’s own piano and were recorded at Grieg’s home in Troldhaugen.
The sound quality of this disc is excellent, incorporating just the right balance between the piano and orchestra on the concerto, and the solo performances are not miked so closely as to lose the ambient cues of the recording space. This is undoubtedly a reference Red Book CD for realistic piano recordings, and the orchestral climaxes are breathtaking!
This disc is one of the first in EMI’s new series of OPENDISCs, which promise computer access to additional bonus material. Unfortunately, that bonus material in no way adds to the continuity of the program. The disc immediately connects you to the internet, requires of you all your personal information, and then merely transports you to an EMI Classics website, where you can sample information concerning upcoming releases, videos, picture galleries and audio clips. While I ultimately didn’t think the payoff was anywhere nearly worth the amount of effort to get there, I did spend a fair amount of time examining the site’s contents and saw a couple of worthwhile videos. You’ll have to be the judge. [The first OPENDISC CD I just auditioned played perfectly well on my CD and DVD players but in my two Macs it caused a dropout of the music every several seconds…Ed.]
Don’t let this minor glitch cause any hesitation to get this otherwise excellent disc – it’s a knockout, both sonically and artistically. Very highly recommended!
– Tom Gibbs