CD: Royal Scottish National Orchestra - Grieg, Manchester Music

Manchester Music 18 June 2004

21/06/2004 :: Grieg: Overture: In Autumn; Piano concerto; Symphonic Dances. Havard Gimse, piano, Royal Scottish National Orchestra, conducted by Bjarte Engeset (Naxos 8.557279, budget price).

IN the hey-day of Europe's classical obsession with folk music - the late 19th century - Grieg was feted throughout the continent, not least in Britain (and Manchester in particular), for the Norwegian flavour perceived in his writing.

The piano concerto, in particular, was so hugely successful that he became quite tired of playing it and, when he visited this city in 1889, Hallé played the solo while Grieg conducted.

It has become so familiar since then, and has been considered so much as "nature music" (especially since the film, Song Of Norway), that we easily miss the terseness, sometimes near violence, of its musical argument in places.

This performance - with Norwegian soloist and conductor - aims to remedy that, and may put some off through its hard, bright sound and no-nonsense style.

It's in the slow movement that the familiar Grieg emerges, though - and that applies, too, to the lovely, gentle second of the Symphonic Dances.

Robert Beale

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