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Grieg: Lyric Pieces, Vol. 1 (Donohoe)

Peter Donohoe (piano) (Chandos)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Grieg
Lyric Pieces, Vol. 1
Peter Donohoe (piano)
Chandos CHAN 20254   83:05 mins

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Grieg’s main calling cards are always likely to be his justly-popular Piano Concerto and the more highly-coloured pieces from his incidental music to Ibsen’s Peer Gynt, but as this imaginatively assembled collection shows, a more varied and intimate portrait of the composer is to be found among his small-scale piano pieces. Many were published under the general title Lyric Pieces and explore moods, personal events, such as the well-known ‘Wedding Day at Troldhaugen’, or simply celebrate Norwegian surroundings. Schumann might well hover in the background of some of the pieces, notably ‘Melody’, but the individuality of the works is always engaging and their range surprisingly varied. The later compositions offer some striking contrasts such as the Scherzo of 1891 with its harsh chordal writing and bold, shifting modulations bookending a Trio that would not be out of place in his Peer Gynt music; still more remarkable is Klokkeklang (Sound of Bells) with its famous anticipation of Impressionistic harmonies.

Peter Donohoe, with a devotion to Grieg’s music dating back to his early years, clearly has the measure of this repertoire. He gets inside the gentler pieces, such as ‘Melancholy’ and ‘Summer Evening’, with beautifully poised playing. Grieg in his more overtly national mood, as in the famous and virtuoso ‘Halling’, is presented with infectious enjoyment and the simpler pieces are never patronised.

Just occasionally one wishes for slightly more delicacy of approach but as a whole this excellently recorded anthology is a delightful way of exploring a less-well-known side of this composer.

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Jan Smaczny