WORKS: Piano Concerto; Wedding Day at Troldhaugen; Album Leaf, Op. 28 Nos 1 & 2; Erotikon; To Spring; Violin Sonata in C minor
PERFORMER: Percy Grainger, Edvard Grieg (piano); Øyvind Bjorå (violin), Rex Lawson (pianolist); Kristiansand SO/Rolf Gupta
CATALOGUE NO: 2L 2L60SABD (hybrid CD/SACD; plus Blu-ray)
It is not a mistake. Percy Grainger is the soloist in Grieg’s Piano Concerto, yet the disc is recorded in cutting-edge state of the art surround sound. The answer is not a miracle clean-up of an early recording, but a piano roll performance, cut in 1921, and now accompanied by a modern-day orchestra.
This disc features three types of pianola. For the Third Violin Sonata, Øyvind Bjorå’s lyrical playing is accompanied by a roll that simply has the notes punched, with expert pianolist Rex Lawson providing the interpretative dynamics, rubato and pedalling here to great effect. There is also a selection of solo pieces played by Grieg where the rubato is the composer’s, and Lawson is controlling dynamics and pedalling.
Most sophisticated, as in Grainger’s interpretation of the Piano Concerto, are the rolls where everything – dynamics, rubato and pedalling – is encoded on the rolls, which are now controlled by computer for cueing.
So far, so good, but this still leaves Rolf Gupta and the Kristiansand Symphony Orchestra the rather tricky task of trying to accompany a pianist who died nearly fifty years ago. In this, they do a splendid job, following Grainger’s fluid playing faultlessly so that the results sound natural.
It is a pity that this decidedly modern orchestra plays without the slides and variable vibrato that Grainger would have expected. Occasionally, such as the arabesques of the slow movement, the piano part is fractionally stilted. Overall, though, this is a fascinating interpretation, and the final pages are utterly thrilling. Christopher Dingle