Grieg: Sigurd Jorsalfar (incidental music); Bergliot; Land-Sighting

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WORKS: Sigurd Jorsalfar (incidental music); Bergliot; Land-Sighting
PERFORMER: Håkan Hagegård (baritone), Gørild Mauseth (narrator); Bergen Philharmonic Choir, Seim Songkor, Kor Vest, Bergen PO/Ole Kristian Ruud
Three scores from the early 1870s, the fruit of Grieg’s collaboration with the poet and dramatist Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson: incidental music to Sigurd Jorsalfar (Sigurd the Crusader), and two other settings, Den Bergtekne (The Mountain Thrall) and Landkjenning (Land-Sighting). The music for Sigurd Jorsalfar was written in great haste and none of the Grieg authorities expresses great enthusiasm for it. True, ‘Borghild’s Dream’ is of much beauty though Ole Kristian Ruud rather spoils it by exaggerating pianissimo tone – he is much less affected in the ‘Homage March’. Generally speaking, Neeme Järvi and his Gothenburg forces make out a better case for it on DG. The Mountain-thrall is somewhat later and based on a ballad familiar to us through Keats’s ‘La belle dame sans merci’. It was one of Grieg’s favourite pieces (he went so far as to hail it as ‘one of the few good deeds of my life’). Land-Sighting and the melodrama Bergliot come off well. Håkan Hagegård has lost some of his fresh tonal bloom, but none of his musical intelligence. The eloquent Funeral March that Grieg composed for his friend Nordraak is both original and deeply felt and Ruud and his fine orchestra do it proud. Impressive and richly detailed recorded sound throughout. Robert Layton