Grieg: Bergliot; Symphonic Dances etc. Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra / Edward Gardner. © 2024 Chandos Records Ltd


Gripping and Engaging

GEOFF PEARCE enjoys music by Edvard Grieg

'It is especially rewarding to hear the unfamiliar works that make up much of this disc.'


This is a most enjoyable disc of music by Edvard Grieg, with a fantastic recorded sound quality. It has one well known and favourite work, the Symphonic Dances Op 64, and three works that I had not heard before: Bergliot, Op 42, Before a Southern Convent, Op 20 and Funeral March for Rikard Nordraak.

The Symphonic Dances are a favourite with audiences, although you are quite often likely to not hear them complete, in spite of the composer's instructions that the series should not be broken. He originally wrote these in 1896 for two pianos and completed the orchestration of these two years later. Early in his life, Grieg was not particularly confident in his own orchestration skills and he felt overshadowed by some of his contemporaries, but by the time he orchestrated these dances, he was much more confident, and I feel that this shows in his deft handling of the orchestral colour in these works. The suite comprises four movements.

The recorded sound quality is bright without too much reverberation. The orchestra, the Bergen Philharmonic, sometimes referred to as Grieg's own orchestra, as he spent a few years as its chief conductor, plays with great spirit and fire, when required to, and with tenderness and affection at other times. I am particularly impressed with the standard of playing and, in particular, the woodwind and brass sections.

Listen — Grieg: Allegretto grazioso (Symphonic Dances)
(CHSA 5301 track 2, 0:01-0:55) ℗ 2024 Chandos Records Ltd :

Bergliot, Op 42 was totally new to me and impressed me a great deal because of its dramatic intensity and originality. I wonder why it is not more often presented. It is based on a poem by Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson (1832-1910) who was a friend of Grieg. They often collaborated, and in fact had plans to write a great national opera together.

This work is the telling of the dramatic episode when the chieftain Einar Tambarskjelve and his son Eindride are killed by King Harald Hårdråde. Einar's wife, Bergliot, witnessed this from above, but ultimately was powerless to do anything about it, and had the sorrowful task of transporting the bodies back home. This seventeen-minute melodrama was originally conceived for piano and narrator in 1871, but Grieg orchestrated it in 1885. It is a gripping and engaging work, revealing a Grieg that many listeners will not know. The narrator and orchestra are on very fine form. I would have purchased this album for this work alone.

Listen — Grieg: Bergliot
(CHSA 5301 track 5, 2:26-3:26) ℗ 2024 Chandos Records Ltd :

Foran sydens kloster (Before a Southern Convent), Op 20 (1871), is a scene also based on a poem by Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson. In this scene, the daughter of a chieftain, after some time wandering in the wilderness, finds refuge in a convent. It is scored for orchestra, chorus and two female singers. Grieg had some trepidation about this work, but later became very fond of it, and dedicated it to Franz Liszt.

Listen — Grieg: Foran sydens kloster
(CHSA 5301 track 6, 4:46-5:38) ℗ 2024 Chandos Records Ltd :

Finally, here, Sørgemarsj over Rikard Nordraak (Funeral March for Rikard Nordraak), EG 107 (1866), originally composed by Grieg for solo piano, is an early piece from 1866, written commemorating the death of a close friend from tuberculosis. The circumstances are outlined in the accompanying notes. This work, around seven minutes in length, is sombre and full of pathos, as one would expect. Grieg arranged it for wind band, but it was later orchestrated in 1907 by the composer Johan Halvorsen (1865-1936), as sensitively as if Grieg had orchestrated this himself.

Listen — Grieg: Sørgemarsj over Rikard Nordraak
(CHSA 5301 track 7, 5:10-6:09) ℗ 2024 Chandos Records Ltd :

I enjoyed this disc very much and I think most people who enjoy Grieg's music will feel the same. It is especially rewarding to hear the unfamiliar works that make up much of the album. The performances are very good, as are the notes and recording quality.

Copyright © 22 January 2024 Geoff Pearce,
Sydney, Australia



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