Grieg: Piano Concerto, Symphony, In Autumn - Ogawa / Ruud
Classical - Orchestral
Grieg: Piano Concerto, Symphony in C minor, In Autumn
Noriko Ogawa (piano)
Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra
Ole Kristian Ruud (conductor)
As one of the three household names of Nordic music and Scandinavia's most "popular" composer, Grieg is traditional BIS territory. We have now started an exciting undertaking: to record all of Grieg's orchestral music.
This will be the first complete Grieg series made by a Norwegian orchestra, and what could be a more natural choice than letting the leading Norwegian conductor of his generation, Ole Kristian Ruud and the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, Grieg’s “own” orchestra, do the honours. (Grieg’s grandfather was employed as leader of the orchestra in 1770 and 110 years later the composer was its musical director. Even now Grieg’s influence is great, as he left a great deal of money to a foundation supporting the orchestra.)
The programme on this first disc in the cycle includes both old favourites – the piano concerto – and less known works. (The Symphony was actually left unperformed for more than 100 years, from 1867 to 1980.) Recorded with the new DSD (Direct Stream Digital) technology, this hybrid disc offers the option of surround sound as well as the usual stereo – a first for this the most recorded (?) of all piano concertos.
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Recorded in February 2002 (Symphony) and in June 2002 (In Autumn; Piano Concerto) at the Grieg Hall, Bergen, Norway
Balance engineer/Tonmeister: Hans Kipfer (Symphony); Martin Nagorni (In Autumn; Piano Concerto)
Neumann microphones; microphone pre-amplifier by Didrik De Geer, Stockholm; 2 Studer 961 mixers; Meitner ADC 8 A/D converter; Sonoma DSD workstation; Stax headphones; B&W 802 Nautinus loudspeakers
Produced by Jens Braun (Symphony); Ingo Petry (In Autumn; Piano Concerto)
DSD/Digital editing: Martin Nagorni, Andreas Ruge
DSD consultant: Bastiaan Kuijt
Review by John Broggio - April 24, 2006
After my experience with the latest release in the cycle (Grieg: Holberg Suite, Music for Strings - Ruud), I thought I'd chance a spin of the first release in what must be the foremost Grieg cycle (once it is completed) on all formats. I was not disappointed and this has encouraged me to order the remaining discs.
The disc is structured like a conventional concert and opens with the overture to "In Autumn", after a poem "Autumn Storm" by Christian Richardt, which has some very dramatic moments and some that are altogether more wistful in nature. The recording vividly captures the orchestral tutti as well as giving wondrous lustre to the strings and allowing woodwind soloists a beautiful bloom.
The concerto is, of course, the only one that Grieg wrote and Noriko Ogawa plays it well without a trace of mannerisms in her playing. The hallmark of the cycle (or so it seems to me) is a delightful freshness and ease of interpretation which Ogawa carries on to her great credit - so many times, pianists search and search for something that isn't really in Grieg's music - great profundity! This, almost naive, approach pays dividends by letting us here the structure warts and all with tune after tune jostling for position without trying to unify what is disparate. I particularly enjoyed the build up in the cadenza, where Ogawa starts almost tentatively and ever so slowly builds up the tempo and the tension before unleashing the familiar cascades of octaves. If you are looking for point making, you will be disappointed but for a fresh and clean view of one of the most (over?) played piano concertos you will find much to savour here. The co-ordination between Ogawa and Ruud is most sympathetically managed. The balance of piano and orchestra is very well judged and moments where the timpani roll out notes like thunder are very vividly captured as are the deep fulminations of Grieg's writing for piano.
The remainder of the disc (nearly 80 minutes long) is filled by Grieg's only symphony. A young work but only written 2 years before the overture and 4 years before the concerto, this has many beautiful (if not completely memorable) tunes that are melded in a style that is reminiscent of mid-19th century Romantics such as Schumann and Mendelssohn. To pretend that this is a masterpiece would be praising Grieg too highly but there some enjoyable moments and as with the remainder of the disc, Ruud & his players make no effort to transform the symphony into Brahms (or similar). Most enjoyable for all the scores immaturity and one can not imagine a more sensitive or exciting reading (as the mood demands).
The notes are detailed and document Grieg's development well. The sound is also well up to BIS' normal high standards (MCH adds just the right amount of ambience). Very enjoyable and recommendable for the freshness of the readings.
Copyright © 2006 John Broggio and HRAudio.net