WORKS: Piano Sonata in E minor; Funeral March in Memory of Rikard Nordraak; Four Piano Pieces, Op. 1; Moods, Op. 73; 25 Norwegian Folksongs and Dances, Op. 17; 19 Norwegian Folksongs, Op. 66; Ballade, Op. 24; Four Album Leaves, Op. 28; Poetic Tone-Pictures, Op
PERFORMER: Einar Steen-Nøkleberg (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.550881/2/3/4 DDD
Surprise number one: just how much piano music by Grieg there really is. Surprise number two, to judge by these, the first four volumes in a series of 14: it’s almost entirely of top quality. Facing a disc containing a total of 44 Norwegian folk songs and dances I admitted to slight trepidation, only to find myself utterly enchanted by music and performance alike.
The vast majority of works on this series of discs are miniatures of between one and four minutes each, mostly inspired by folk songs and dances or bearing titles such as Moods, Poetic Tone Pictures, Humoresques, Pictures from Folk Life and Album Leaves. Grieg’s invention is apparently limitless, from these tiny jewels to the larger works, the Sonata in E minor, Op. 7, the Ballade, Op. 24 (a set of variations nearly twenty minutes long) and the much-loved Holberg Suite.
Steen-Nøkleberg has tremendous sensitivity to Grieg’s multiple nuances of mood, colour and character throughout the discs. His playing brims in turn with charm, pathos, nostalgia, simplicity, drama and whatever else is needed – invariably appropriate, straightforward, unaffected and vivid. The Holberg Suite has a performance of unparalleled vigour and charm. It’s almost impossible to imagine this music better interpreted. Sound quality is good and value is excellent indeed. I’m looking forward to the other discs. Jessica Duchen