Grieg: Lyric Pieces (excerpts)

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WORKS: Lyric Pieces (excerpts)
PERFORMER: Håkon Austbø (piano)
This selection from all ten books of Grieg’s Lyric Pieces includes all those that Gilels recorded on his classic DG disc plus six more, and there’s more reason than that to get this new release. The Norwegian pianist Håkon Austbø has made a strong impression with his recordings of Messiaen on Naxos. What is striking here is his lavish expressiveness, removing Grieg’s pieces firmly from the drawing room and far beyond the amateur’s reach. Not that Austbø overdoes anything, though his generosity of feeling, immediately evident in the very first piece (Arietta’), as well as his élan and refinement in ‘Butterfly’, and the grandeur which he brings to ‘Wedding Day at Troldhaugen’ all come as a lovely surprise. His playing is warmer, more sincerely ardent than Pletnev’s on his DG disc coupling a few of the Lyric Pieces with Grieg’s Sonata. It’s also technically, pianistically, on the highest level -just listen to Scherzo (track 12) or the exquisite ‘Brooklet’ (track 14). Austbø is also wonderfully touching in the intimate ‘Summer Evening’ (track 22), unashamedly Romantic in ‘Homesickness’ (track 13), and he plays the remarkable harmonic explorations of ‘Gone’ (track 25) as if they had just occurred to him. Spaciously recorded, this is a lovely disc. Adrian Jack