This marks the third version of the Grieg Piano Concerto now available to the public. The “final product,” is widely and effusively available in every record shop. Then comes the “first version,” which Grieg performed before he incorporated the suggestions of Franz Liszt. That holds special appeal, and is available on BIS with Love Derwinger as the soloist with the Norrköping Symphony Orchestra. Now we have the world premiere recording of the two-piano version, with the second piano part worked on between Grieg and Austro-Hungarian conductor Karoly Thern, who worked especially on the sections when the orchestra plays along with the soloist. The Piano I part is not merely the solo piano part of the final version of the concerto.
Despite pianos have more difficulty sustaining notes in comparison with orchestras, the tempi here remain fairly consistent with the standard playing times of the concerto. I tend not to be a fan of piano reductions of symphonic music, with their reliance especially on rolling octaves, but this version of the concerto certainly has appeal. In the first movement the line between what one would hold as the orchestral line and the solo part get blurred in a way that perhaps could have been better articulated, but this is a small complaint. The two-piano version holds a more intimate sound and aesthetic while still straining to maintain its loyalty to the finished article.
One wonders what the result would have been if Grieg would have gone for something along the lines of what Hummel did with his chamber reductions of Mozart’s piano concertos. Those show a very interesting side to the works and can be heard in very enjoyable performances by Fumiko Shiraga on BIS. The opening measures of the Concerto’s slow central movement are quite beautiful here, though the orchestral version holds more dramatic punch. I agree with an earlier reviewer that the final movement shines a light on aspects of the orchestral part that one tends to overlook, given the grand gestures allotted to the soloist in the regular version of this concerto. Goldstone and Clemmow forge a convincing performance of the two piano version that fans of this great concerto would benefit from hearing.
Another revelation, at least for this reviewer, is the inclusion of the two-piano version of the Mozart Sonata in C, K 545. The fact that Grieg thought he might just add a piano part to such a piece gives one new insight into Grieg’s character and nerve. No doubt displeasing the purists out there, Grieg was unfazed by their reaction to his effrontery in jostling a mainstay of the piano repertoire. The additions don’t amount to anything approximating a hijacking of the Mozart piece à la Schnittke, but is an “augmentation” of sonorities already found in the original. Many might find the additional part an unnecessary distortion to better fit a Romantic perspective. To my ears it is a charming gilding of the lily that serves as an agreeable companion to the Concerto.
The other world premiere recording, that of the Homage March from the incidental music to the forgotten play Sigurd Jorsalfar, is engaging, though of far less import compared to the Concerto. The march, as with another march from the same incidental music to that play is stirring in its own way, though again no innovation to the genre.
The first suite of pieces from Peer Gynt are also included and all cast light on Grieg’s creative process for those familiar with these pieces. The most successful of them in this format are Anitra’s Dance and, unsurprisingly, In the Hall of the Mountain King.Aase’s Death also holds a certain beauty that translates well to the duo piano arrangement though this reviewer still prefers the orchestral version.
This is quite an interesting and well-performed programme. There are quite a few fans of these pieces that will discover new facets to this music from the performances found here. The recording quality is solid and clear, with some sense of ambient space without going to the extent of muddying the sound. Catch this one while it’s available.