Grieg: Lyric Pieces (excerpts); Piano Sonata in E minor, Op. 7; 7 Fugues

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COMPOSERS: Grieg
LABELS: DG
WORKS: Lyric Pieces (excerpts); Piano Sonata in E minor, Op. 7; 7 Fugues
PERFORMER: Mikhail Pletnev (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 459 671-2
This selection of Grieg’s piano music represents nearly 40 years of his life and introduces seven recently published Fugues which he wrote as a student in Leipzig. Smoothly appealing as they are, most people, surely, would prefer to have more of Grieg’s charming and characteristic Lyric Pieces, which offer Pletnev many opportunities to revel in his extraordinary command of keyboard colour. He takes a few liberties, making the famous ‘Butterfly’ hop staccato, though the effect is seductive, and he has a wonderful ear for Grieg’s robuster sonorities in ‘Bellringing’ and ‘Wedding Day at Troldhaugen’ as well as the glistening delicacy of ‘Brooklet’.

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The booklet notes are sometimes misleading, describing ‘To Spring’ as if it were full of Lisztian bravura, whereas Grieg’s more modest textures hint at Liszt’s extravagant scene-painting, perhaps, but without grandiloquence. The writer underestimates Grieg’s originality, too, in talking of Mendelssohnian grace in the Scherzo.

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Grieg’s four-movement Sonata pre-dates his Piano Concerto by three years but is already recognisably personal, with a very individual, country-bumpkin sort of Minuet, clogged with thick chords in the bass. There’s also a rustic character to the finale, which Pletnev treats rather too fastidiously, as if carrying out an autopsy. Adrian Jack