Grieg: Piano Sonata in E minor; Lyric Pieces, Opp. 43 6-54; Poetic Tone Pictures, Op. 3/4, 5, 6; Album Leaves, Op. 2811 dr 4; Agitato

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COMPOSERS: Grieg
LABELS: Virgin
WORKS: Piano Sonata in E minor; Lyric Pieces, Opp. 43 6-54; Poetic Tone Pictures, Op. 3/4, 5, 6; Album Leaves, Op. 2811 dr 4; Agitato
PERFORMER: Leif OveAndsnes (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: VC 7 59300 2 DDD
This is a splendid issue from every point of view. Not only is it a useful anthology showcasing some of Grieg’s most winning piano works, it also includes the first commercial recording of the Chopinesque Agitato of 1865, as yet unpublished. Beyond the interesting choice of repertoire is the playing of Leif Ove Andsnes, whose undemonstrative virtuosity illuminates each number from within.

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Apart from his innate command of the vernacular, Andsnes brings a persuasive intelligence to bear in each work, for instance nudging the argument gently on where Grieg begins to dither in the first movement of the E minor Sonata, or providing suitably impressionist colouring in some of the more mature compositions, notably in the composer’s magical evocation of bells in the sixth of the Lyric Pieces, Op. 54. In Andsnes’s hands the flurries of figuration, which enliven many of the later pieces, never jar or threaten to inflate the prevailing mood. In short, here is a performer who takes Grieg on his own terms and succeeds in projecting the full range of his imagination without any loss of intimacy. The recording serves this approach well with rich sound and a credible distance between performer and listener. Jan Smaczny