Grieg: Peer Gynt Suite No. 1; Peer Gynt Suite No. 2; In Autumn; Symphonic Dances

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COMPOSERS: Grieg
LABELS: Erato
WORKS: Peer Gynt Suite No. 1; Peer Gynt Suite No. 2; In Autumn; Symphonic Dances
PERFORMER: CBSO/Sakari Oramo
CATALOGUE NO: 8573-82917-2
Here we have one of the best Grieg discs for many years. Grieg often complained that his time at Leipzig left him with scant understanding of the orchestra, and he suppressed the early Symphony and withdrew In Autumn. Both were written in his early twenties, before his feeling for the orchestra was fully developed. Gade dismissed the overture as ‘a load of rubbish’ when Grieg showed it to him, but the work we know is the revision Grieg made 20 years later for the Birmingham Festival – and so it is appropriate that Sakari Oramo should include it in his debut recording with the CBSO. Oramo has been collecting golden opinions there – understandably so, given the results he gets on this CD. We are hardly short of recordings of the Peer Gynt suites, though In Autumn is less well served. Grieg’s music may be perennially fresh but overfamiliarity has dulled our responses and those of many players. The challenge for any artist is to make the listener feel that he is hearing it for the first time. And Oramo succeeds in doing just that. Even as late as the mid-1890s the scoring of the Symphonic Dances for piano duet gave Grieg trouble (it took him two years), but the results have much delicacy and imagination. Oramo and his players convey their charm and freshness, and the excellent recorded sound has both presence and warmth. Robert Layton

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