Grieg: Melodies of the Heart, Op. 5; Six Poems by Henrik Ibsen, Op. 25; Sechs Lieder, Op. 48; The Mountain Maid, Op. 67; The Princess

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COMPOSERS: Grieg
LABELS: Hyperion
ALBUM TITLE: Grieg
WORKS: Melodies of the Heart, Op. 5; Six Poems by Henrik Ibsen, Op. 25; Sechs Lieder, Op. 48; The Mountain Maid, Op. 67; The Princess
PERFORMER: Katarina Karnéus (mezzo-soprano), Julius Drake (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67670

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There can never be too many recordings of Grieg’s masterpiece, Haugtussa (‘The Mountain Maid’), one of the greatest and still least performed song cycles in the repertoire. The haunting tale of love and loss in the life of a mountain goatherd, it is Grieg’s setting of part of Arne Garborg’s verse-novel – and it is potent stuff. In the mezzo-soprano of Katarina Karnéus, Haugtussa becomes a darkly erotic tale: not as wild, ecstatically youthful and hot-blooded as in the voices of some sopranos or lighter mezzos, but compelling enough. This central masterwork is framed by a programme of artfully chosen songs, beginning with the little salon dramas which are Grieg’s six settings of Ibsen poems. Julius Drake provides the watery undercurrents for Karnéus’s eloquent ‘En svane’ and ‘Med en vandlilje’ (‘With a waterlily’). Their partnership is vividly alive, too, in the six German-language settings of Op. 48, with the timbre of Karnéus’s mezzo particularly moving in the grief-stricken dying falls of Goethe’s ‘Zur Rosenzeit’. Karnéus brings hushed awe rather than rapture to the famous ‘Jeg elsker dig’ (‘I love but thee’) from a sophisticated performance of the impassioned Hans Christian Andersen settings Grieg wrote as an engagement present for his soprano wife, Nina. Hilary Finch