Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Grieg plays Grieg

This exhilarating recording is of Edvard Grieg playing his own 'Wedding Day at Troldhaugen' - brisk tempo, fresh tone, a distant memory. It dates from 1903. This year, of course, marks the centenary of his death.

It took me a long time to recover from my first trip to Bergen about seven years ago. It was late May, but we got caught in a blizzard up a mountain, had to buy thick woolly jerseys in the harbour market and discovered that the town's slot machines, instead of chocolate, held umbrellas. And you cannot get away from Grieg. Every shop, every bus, every everything, pipes out Grieg until you start pitying the poor people who have to live with it.

And yet...his house at Troldhaugen is probably the most beautiful composer museum I've seen. It's preserved exquisitely - you imagine that he or his wife Nina might stroll in any moment, brush a soft note from the piano (on which Andsnes has recorded the appropriate music) and guide you down to the bottom of the garden, where the glorified shed in which Grieg liked to compose overlooks first the trees, then the fjord, at last eternity. His grave is embedded in the rocks, deep inside the earth that he loved.

You can assuredly have too much of the war-horses in the form we usually hear them. The piano concerto, the Peer Gynt suite, etc. But the reality goes further than this. A revelatory CD unfurls the full extent of the Peer Gynt incidental music, together with some of the Ibsen, astonishing and inventive when presented in its original form; the Lyric Pieces are intimate, gorgeous, incredibly imaginative slivers of perfection; and the violin sonatas and songs often drag an involuntary tear from the hardest of hearts (at least, I hope they do; the hearts of British critics are far harder than even I had imagined, but enough of that...).

The Wigmore Hall has a Grieg anniversary concert tomorrow featuring chamber music and songs: artists include the matchless Solveig Kringelborn, and our pals Philippe Graffin and Raphael Wallfisch will be strutting their stuff too.

The weather forecast, appropriately enough, is for rain.

And by the way, if anyone wants to glean schadenfreude from the way they imagine I may be licking my wounds over the Heliane reviews, they can't. My beloved colleagues are wrong. And I am proud to the last tooth of what the LPO and Jurowski achieved last week, and privileged to have been part of it. Nor was I the only person in the hall standing up to applaud at the end.