Songs and piano works: Haugtussa (The Mountain Maid), Op. 67; Lyric Pieces – Op. 12 Nos 1 (Arietta), 5 (Folktune) & 6 (Norwegian); Op. 43/1 (Butterfly); Op. 47/3 (Melody); Op. 54 No. 6 (Bell Ringing); Op. 62 Nos 1 (Sylph), 5 (Phantom) & 6 (Homeward) etc
Claire Booth (soprano), Christopher Glynn (piano)
Avie AV2403 71:59 mins
‘Edvard Grieg: Lyric Music’ is the perfect title, since the piano sings as much here on its own as it does when joining the voice. Claire Booth and Christopher Glynn take their cue from the mixed programmes of the composer as pianist with his beloved singer wife Nina; more, they build a three-parter that makes this a very special Grieg recital.
You’d think Booth’s bright, youthful soprano with its mix of fast vibrato – as distinctively part of the personality as those of Lucia Popp or Barbara Bonney – and pure white notes would be best suited to the spring-like happiness of the early songs; but she turns in well-weighted tragedy, too, in the penultimate song, ‘At the Grave of a Young Wife’. It’s poetically redeemed by the impressionist bells of a late Lyric Piece, and there are telling conjunctions between songs proper and piano pieces throughout.
The centrepiece is the song-cycle Haugtussa (‘The Mountain Maid’); this pair renders it a masterpiece. The familiar trajectory of love and rejection is made special by the characterisation of a rustic Norwegian soul, who sings in her own voice in five of the eight songs. The links with the natural world are delightful, even humorous – note how Glynn uses a single piano note to represent the crack of a birch-club on a threatening wolf’s jaw – and the amorous moments heart-meltingly lovely. A perfect fusion between voice and piano – the piano’s opening wistfulness is matched by the soprano’s in ‘The Princess’, for instance – is perfectly served by an ideal recording. Revelatory.