Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Sparkle and charm: Grieg piano music from Sandra Mogensen

Sandra Mogensen: Grieg Piano Music, volume 3, CHM120819
Sandra Mogensen is a Canadian pianist of Latvian and Danish heritage who has made something of a speciality of the music of Grieg and this is the third of her discs of Grieg's piano music. She has not recorded the pieces in opus number order, but has made her own selections. The discs mix well known and rare pieces which she has programmed so that the pieces flow from one to another. Over the three discs she has recorded the complete Opus 41, Opus 52, From Holberg's Time Opus 40, the Lyric Pieces Opus 52 and Opus 62. This disc seems to very much the dance disc, with the waltz and other movements in 3/4 time predominating.

She opens with the flowing Melodie op.38, no.3, with its hints of Liszt, this flows into Hun Danser (She Dances) op.52, no.5 which is an attractively up-tempo waltz that I would not have immediately thought of as by Grieg. Valse-Impromtu, op.47, no.1 is a dashing waltz to which Mogensen gives a fluid charm, this is Liszt on an excursion to the Nordic countries. Sylfide, op.62, no.1 is a character piece based on a uneven triple time melody. Hemmelighet (Secret) op. 57, no.4 is also full of hints of a waltz, but there is much more and Mogensen makes it something of a mini tone-poem with a delicate passion.

The Preludium from Fra Hobergs Tid (From Holberg's Time) comes over as a light fingered toccata, providing a contrast to the romantic slow waltz of Hun ser sa hvid (She is so white), op.41, no.4. Vals (Waltz) op.38, no. 7, is another romantic piece, a light-fingered waltz impromptu.

Bestemors Menuett (Grandmother's minuet) op.68, no.2 is a piece of delicate charm which contrasts nicely with the Norsk folk-music feel of Springdans (Leaping Dance) op.47, no.6 with evocation of fiddle music. Valse Melancolique op.68, no.6 has a fascinating uneven rhythm to the melody. I Balladetone (In Ballad Style) op. 65, no.5 is an old-style soulful ballad.

Illusjon (Illusion) op.57, no.3 is a haunting lyrical piece with a waltz-like feel, followed by Tussebrurefaera pa Vossevangen (Gangar) (Wedding March of the Goblins) op.72 no.24 which starts gentle dance with a  Nordic feel but which develops into something far more dramatic.

Humoreske: Allegro all burla op.61, no.4 is a lively, characterful piece with hints of the exotic and Mogensen makes it delightfully infectious. By contrast Salon op.65, no.4 is an impulsive salon piece with a delicate charm. The lovely melody of Prinsessen op.41, no.5 starts rather wistful, with hints of Peer Gynt which develops into something dramatic.

Du Gamle Mor (The Old Mother) op.52, no.6 is one of Grieg's own transcriptions of his songs, full of lyrical melancholy but which the composer develops into something rather complex. Bryllups pa Troldhaugen (Wedding Day at Troldhaugen) op.65, no.6 is perhaps one of the best known pieces on the disc. A character piece which Mogensen makes full of rhythmic charm and sparkle, nicely pointing the rhythms. The ending drifts beautifully into the distance.

Tungsind (Sadness)  op.65, no.6 and Jeg gar i tusen tanker (I wander absorbed in thoughts) Op.66, no.18 are both substantial romantic pieces which seem to call for a bigger range of expression than Mogensen adopts, you feel that the music could develop further than the wistful melancholy which she gives it. The final item on the disc is described as an extra track, this is the charming Efterklang (Remembrances) op.71, no.7.

The CD liner notes are brief and anyone wanting to explore Grieg's music further will need to look elsewhere.

Mogensen brings a light, flexible touch to all these piece, adding sparkle to works of great charm and pointing the rhythms in an infectious manner. She takes the works at face value and does not attempt to push them further, so big gestures are rare and it is only occasionally that hints of Grieg's links to other composers come out. I have to confess that I remain rather worried at the dispensing with Grieg's own ordering in his various collections. On this disc triple time pieces rather do predominate, but the selection of pieces works well, though not everyone will want to listen from start to finish. This is also a lovely disc to dip into. And you'll probably want to search out the first two volumes in the sequence as well.

Piano Music of Edvard Grieg: volume 3
Sandra Mogensen (piano)
Recorded February 2012 at Glenn Gould Studio, Toronto, Ontario
CHM 120819 1 CD [70.30]

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