Grieg: Peer Gynt Suite No. 1; Peer Gynt Suite No. 2; From Holberg’s Time; Three Piano Pieces

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COMPOSERS: Grieg
LABELS: Arte Nova
WORKS: Peer Gynt Suite No. 1; Peer Gynt Suite No. 2; From Holberg’s Time; Three Piano Pieces
PERFORMER: Florian Henschel (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 74321 72118 2
With the exception of the Three Pieces that close the disc, most of this music is better known in its orchestral versions. Florian Henschel rises to this implicit challenge in many ways very well, evoking powerfully the multilayered orchestral textures of Peer Gynt’s ‘Stormy Evening on the Sea’ and the songfulness of ‘Morning Mood’; the Three Piano Pieces, each with a pictorial title (‘In the Whirl of the Dance’, ‘Procession of Gnomes’, ‘White Clouds’), also lend themselves well to the sense of orchestral coloration. The piano version was the original form of the Holberg Suite and Henschel performs this work with, again, plenty of vigour. Occasionally he can sound rather over-serious and the touch can be a little too heavy for both the folksy qualities of Peer Gynt and the 18th-century inspirations of the Holberg Suite. Although the melodies sing very nicely, some of the accompaniments plod a bit too deliberately and loudly, and there is some intrusive pedalling in the slower movements of Peer Gynt. The disc remains an interesting novelty, however, as there are not many alternative versions of this piano music available, with the exception of the Holberg Suite: the Norwegian pianist Einar Steen-Nøkleberg includes a lively account of it, bearing rather more charm, in his recording of Grieg’s original piano works on Naxos. Jessica Duchen

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