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This is Chandos’ fourth recording of Grieg’s concerto – an average of one a decade. First came Margaret Fingerhut’s fine account with Vernon Handley, coupled with the two Peer Gynt Suites in 1989; next Amalie Malling’s, coupled with Kuhlau’s Concerto, in 1998; and 10 years on came Howard Shelley – directing from the keyboard with assured virtuosity – along with the Schumann and Saint-Saëns G minor concertos. Now here’s Jean-Efflam Bavouzet and Edward Gardner in Grieg’s home town.

It is a shame that none of these tackled the original 1868 version – so far only set down by Love Derwinger (BIS) – but in the present instance that would have meant losing another number from the incidental music to Peer Gynt: only 16 of the 26 movements are included as it is. (Peer Gynt is given in its theatrical vocal-and-orchestral guise, originally composed in 1874-75, but revised variously to 1902, on what is a splendidly well-fi lled disc.)

Bavouzet and Gardner have the measure of the concerto, at 28 minutes the fastest yet on Chandos, seconds ahead of Shelley. There is a difference in the accompanimental textures, too, Shelley’s having an almost chamber- orchestral feel where the Bergen Philharmonic sound fuller, especially in the strings.

Bavouzet is every bit Shelley’s equal, light and carefree in the opening Allegro molto moderato, magical in the central Adagio and dazzling in the finale. The Bergen Philharmonic play superbly, as they do throughout Peer Gynt. The vocal and choral contributions are nicely realised, too. With all the well-known items present, this selection is only five minutes or so less than Paavo Järvi’s optimal selection, released on Virgin Classics back in 2005. But Järvi, of course, did not have this brilliant rendition of the concerto as a coupling.

GUY RICKARDS Read the full review on Agora Classica

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