Tuesday, March 6, 2012
Grieg, String Quartets Arranged for String Orchestra; Nordheim, Rendezvous
Edvard Grieg (1843-1907) had a lyrical streak in him that has made him a favorite with all kinds of people. If you are like me you grew up hearing and loving his "Peer Gynt Suite" and later perhaps some of his singingly immediate solo piano music (plus the Piano Concerto) and have sought to reproduce that feeling by sampling his other works.
Nevertheless not everything Grieg wrote was at the same lyrical level. But there is more to Grieg than melodies you can whistle, of course. His treatment of folk-like material, his fine compositional craftsmanship, his Northern sensibility, musically speaking, his sunlight and sundowns.
The String Quartets are not as well known as perhaps they should be. They are filled with a lyric light--not in some whistle-able sense, but in the sense of his treatment of themes in the somewhat more formalist context of a string quartet. There are two quartets that survive, the completed Quartet in G minor, Op. 27 and the unfinished two movement F Major Quartet (there also was one that has been lost to us). Alf Ardal has arranged both works for String Orchestra and they are available in a new recording by the Oslo Camerata (Naxos 8.572441) along with Nordheim's "Rendezvous," an attractive string orchestra work from 1986.
The good news is that Ardal's arrangements successfully give us what seems like new Grieg. He has transformed the works so fully into the orchestral context that they seem like wholly new works. So what are they? Folk-laced excursions into the special lyricism for which Grieg is known and revered. The Oslo Camerata sounds quite lively and spirited, and the sound is quite decent, if a little on the reverberant side.
Oh, and the Arne Nordheim (1931-2010) composition gives you another 20 minutes of interesting Northern string orchestra music, in a more modern a vein of course.
Any lover of Grieg will find this disk a wonderful experience. Those who enjoy and appreciate the Scandanavian, Norwegian musical corpus in general will go for this as well. It's good music, too. Anybody should find it appealing.