Chasing the Butterfly

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

WORKS: Piano Concerto; Piano Sonata; Ballade; Wedding Day at Troldhaugen; Butterfly, Op. 43/1; Remembrances, Op. 71/7; The Bridal Procession Passes, etc
PERFORMER: Edvard Grieg, Sigurd Slåttebrekk (piano); Oslo PO/Michail Jurowski

The centrepiece of this fascinating release is the restoration of nine acoustic recordings which Grieg made of his piano music on a visit to Paris in 1903. Primitive recording technology had previously rendered these precious historical documents musically indecipherable, but thanks to the painstaking efforts of producer Tony Harrison they now sound amazingly vivid. Almost immediately the ear consigns the high levels of surface noise to the background, focusing instead on the sheer charisma of Grieg’s playing. 
Pianist Sigurd Slåttebrekk has fully absorbed Grieg’s fresh and engaging interpretative approach, and imaginatively applies it to his own marvellous performances of the same repertory as recorded here with tremendous immediacy on the composer’s own 1892 Steinway at Troldhaugen. But the process of assimilation has been taken a stage further with the inclusion of the Ballade and the first two movements of the E minor Sonata, neither of which appeared in the 1903 recordings. Here Slåttebrekk triumphantly demonstrates the degree to which he follows the composer in bringing epic symphonic coherence to music that has often been regarded as four-square and lacking in organic unity.
Slåttebrekk’s 2004 performance of the Piano Concerto is included as a bonus. With committed support from the Oslo Philharmonic, it can surely be regarded alongside those by Dinu Lipatti, Stephen Kovacevich, Radu Lupu and Leif Ove Andsnes as one of the most compelling recordings of this masterpiece. Erik Levi