Classical CD Reviews

New classical music releases reviewed in detail by Gavin Dixon

Monday, 18 March 2013

Sandra Mogensen: Grieg Piano Music Vol. 3

Sandra Mogensen: Piano Music of Edvard Grieg Vol. 3 CHM 120819

Sandra Mogensen is taking a fascinating approach to the piano music of Edvard Greig. Knowing that most listeners (and I include myself here) are only familiar with a small proportion of this literature, Mogensen has devised a series of programmes, of which this is the third, that mix together the familiar with the obscure. Moods rather than themes or subjects link the programmes together, and the balance of continuity and continual variety is skilfully maintained. This approach allows Mogensen to demonstrate the surprising consistency in the quality of Greig’s piano writing, and also the strength of his melodic imagination, which doesn’t fail him once over the course of these 22 works.
Among the more famous works presented are Sylph Op. 62/1 and, as the climax to the programme, Wedding Day at Troldhaugen Op. 65/6. But Mogensen teases us even with these. She programmes the more obscure She Dances Op. 57/5 ahead of Sylph to show that there is at least one other work in Grieg’s catalogue that shares the latter’s style, mood and quality. Similarly with the Wedding Day, which is preceded (albeit nine tracks previously) by Leaping Dance Op.47/6, which again shares the more famous work’s style and spirit.
The programme requires a few conceits to justify its pick-and-mix approach to Grieg’s repertoire. After all, every work here is part of a larger published set, so a substitute logic must be found for the composer’s original ordering. As a result, the disc is presented as a recital in all but name, even to the point of adding an ‘encore’ (Op. 71/7), a curious gesture given that this is a studio album.
The playing is natural and lyrical throughout. Mogensen works within fairly narrow constraints of tempo and dynamics, which allows her to make the one fortissimo outburst, the recapitulation of Wedding Day really sound like the climax to the whole programme. In general, melodies lead harmonies, and the balance between the hands is ideal. The recorded sound of the piano is serviceable, although no better. The mid register sounds boxy and the bass lacks presence, but neither really distracts from the playing.
Morgensen writes in her (all too brief) liner notes that her three albums now encompass all of the works in Opp. 41, 52, 57 and 62. For those of us ignorant of the fact that Greig’s piano repertoire could even fill three discs, it comes as a pleasant surprise just how much of it there is. If the remainder of Grieg’s piano music can support at least another album of this quality and interest from Mogensen, then further recordings would be very welcome indeed.

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