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Grieg: Songs (Davidsen/Andsnes)

Lise Davidsen (soprano),Leif Ove Andsnes (piano) (Decca)

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

Grieg
Haugtussa, Op. 67; Elegiac Poems – To Her I & II etc
Lise Davidsen (soprano),Leif Ove Andsnes (piano)
Decca 485 2254   79:48 mins

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This is the outstanding Lise Davidsen recording many of us who’ve experienced the phenomenon live have been waiting for, and the partnership with Norway’s other best-known national treasure, pianist Leif Ove Andsnes, doubles the pleasure. The trouble with Davidsen’s debut disc was that she wasn’t yet ‘inside’ classics like Strauss’s Four Last Songs, for instance. Grieg’s songs, though, are in the bloodstream; the full range up to that glorious and still-focused upper register is complemented here by word colouring and vivid dramatisation.

It’s vital that the recital begins with Grieg’s only connected song-cycle, Haugtussa, about an earthy mountain girl; Andsnes’s vintage mountain-spring sound kicks off, and then we have a dark cliff face from both. There’s rapture at the centre of the sequence, where the same-stanza format suddenly gives way to greater generosity, and an uncanny ability to hit every note dead centre. Both artists capture the subtle shifts between bubbling natural surroundings and human suffering in the masterly final number, ‘At the Gjaetle Brook’.

The range makes this easy to enjoy at a single sitting, from outdoor rumbustiousness to tenderest introspection. I’m equally fond of the brighter, lighter sound of Claire Booth in the Op. 48 set to German texts, where Davidsen’s tone seems to darken a little with the change of language after plenty of smiling brightness, but the gamut run is so impressive. And I’m grateful to hear Grieg songs I didn’t know, especially the lovely father’s greeting from England to his ‘gentleman’ son, the second of the Otto Bengzon settings.

David Nice

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