Kuhlau/Grieg

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COMPOSERS: Kuhlau/Grieg
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Piano Concerto in C, Op. 7; Piano Concerto in A minor
PERFORMER: Amalie Malling (piano); Danish National RSO/Michael Schønwandt
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9699
Following her previous Chandos release (the Schumann and Schoenberg concertos), Amalie Malling opts for another unconventional coupling. Befitting a middle-European training (she was a student of Leygraf and Brendel), she shines best in Kuhlau’s Napoleonic Concerto from 1810, with its appealing fusion of inherited Beethovenian Classicism and coincidental Weberesque Romanticism, crafted elegance and innovatory bravura à la Dussek. Gallant antecedents notwithstanding, here is music not without personality: Kuhlau spoke the language, ornamental and orchestral vocabulary of his transitional time with enough individuality to counter charges of plagiarism. Malling’s advocacy, her grace and crystalline touch, can scarcely be bettered. This is a fine performance.

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Her seriousness suits Grieg less well. To be sure, there is pointed detail (the opening subject is beautifully shaped), but a reluctance to underline the music’s many tempo contrasts makes ultimately for a pedestrian first movement: she makes almost nothing of the first animato leggiero, for instance, leaving an impression more of careful caution than carefree caprice. Elsewhere an inclination to over-extend ritenutos or hold back before climaxes only saps tension and onward momentum. The ice-queen detachment of her adagio (note perfect yet lyrically dispassionate), the calculation of the finale (demanding, coda apart, more fire and fantasy to take off), likewise disappoint. Legendary Griegs aside (Curzon, Lipatti, Richter, Solomon), one needs Kovacevich (Philips) or Perahia (Sony) for the inspired modern insight, with Radu Lupu imperially dominant in a class of his own. Ates Orga