Grieg Holberg Suite; String Quartet in G minor; Two Elgariac Melodies; Erotikk
The rich textures and powerful levels of expression explored in Grieg’s G minor Quartet carry us well beyond the bounds of intimate music-making normally associated with chamber music. It’s therefore no surprise that the work sounds so convincing in Richard Tognetti’s brilliantly conceived transcription for string orchestra.
Tognetti’s masterstroke is to have fully assimilated all the characteristics of Grieg’s scoring, as for example in the famous Holberg Suite, where certain passages are assigned to solo instruments leaving the full force of the orchestra to deal with the louder tuttis. Transferring this procedure to the Quartet serves to enhance dramatic impact of its musical narrative. This is most effectively realised in the first movement coda, which juxtaposes with the defiant fortissimo closing passage the poignant solo cello lament and its ghostly sul ponticello accompaniment.
The Australian Chamber Orchestra delivers playing of incredible passion and precision. Tognetti’s inspired direction brings every movement to life, investing the Romanze with playing of beauty and sensitivity and projecting rustic vigour in the Intermezzo. Speeds are daringly fast in the whirlwind Saltarello Finale, but Tognetti doesn’t ever allow the tension to sag, and he drives the music irresistibly forward to an exciting conclusion.
The rest of the disc maintains this high level of achievement, with warmly sculpted phrasing in the Two Elegiac Melodies. Following a deeply affecting transcription for violin solo and strings of the Lyric Piece ‘Erotikk’, the players show obvious enjoyment in the sumptuous passagework of the Holberg Suite. They never take even the most familiar musical phrase for granted. A triumph in every respect.