Grieg: Songs, Vol. 4

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COMPOSERS: Grieg
LABELS: BIS
WORKS: Songs, Vol. 4
PERFORMER: Monica Groop (mezzo-soprano); Roger Vignoles (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CD-1257
Monica Groop’s Grieg song project is not the first complete multi-volume collection: the Norwegian soprano Marianne Hirsti was joined by two male compatriots for an anniversary Grieg Edition in the early Nineties (on Victoria). But, a decade on, the distinctive artistry of the Finnish mezzo-soprano is providing an irresistible new take, thrilling to both the shadows and the bright, high-latitude light in this music.

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In this fourth volume Groop is joined, for the first time, by Roger Vignoles. And his keenly pointed, subtly tinted accompanying keeps nerve-endings raw even in minor songs like the settings of the Bergen poet John Paulsen which open this recital. The heart of this volume, though, is the 12 Melodies to Poems by AO Vinje, from 1880. ‘The Lad’ and ‘Spring’ at once reveal their new stature: here Grieg bends and moulds the contours of folk melody and language to a new expressive strength – and Groop uncovers the full intensity of their reflections on the essential isolation of humankind in the earth’s vast landscapes.

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Two more Vinje settings appear among nine songs without opus number: ‘On Hamar’s Ruins’ and ‘The Girl’ capture the muscle and the beating heart of folk song and dance. And here, too, is the Hans Christian Andersen miniature, ‘My Little Bird’, as well as two long occasional ballads whose affectionate blend of the folksy and the heroic Groop and Vignoles understand well. Hilary Finch