Grieg: Piano Concerto in A minor; Symphony in C minor; In Autumn

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WORKS: Piano Concerto in A minor; Symphony in C minor; In Autumn
PERFORMER: Noriko Ogawa (piano); Bergen PO/Ole Kristian Ruud
All three pieces here were composed in the period 1863-8, though In Autumn was revised in 1887 and the Concerto in 1873 (and Grieg was always retouching it – even as late as the last year of his life). The Symphony was an exercise undertaken at the behest of Gade, but Grieg suppressed it after hearing Svendsen’s marvellous First Symphony in 1867. He bequeathed the score to the Bergen Library on the understanding that it was never to be performed. He did, however, think sufficiently well of the inner movements to publish them in piano-duet form. The Symphony is far from Grieg at his best or even most characteristic (except the oboe idea at the end of the first-movement exposition) and up until 1981 Grieg’s wishes were respected. Then a photocopy of the autograph was surreptitiously spirited away and played on Moscow Radio so that the case for upholding Grieg’s ban really disappeared by default. This new, well-shaped account from Grieg’s home town is a good one, though it does not, I think, displace Neeme Järvi and the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra on DG. But what an astonishing piece the Concerto is! However often you hear it, even in an indifferent performance, its freshness is undimmed. And Ogawa’s performance is very far from indifferent: it is sensitive and full of grace and she is well supported by Ole Kristian Ruud. The solo instrument itself is well regulated and tuned (not always the case on disc) and beautifully recorded. Robert Layton