Record of the day: Edvard Grieg, "Lyrical Pieces"

Record of the day: Edvard Grieg, “Lyrical Pieces”

Edvard Grieg
Lyrical pieces (Cd DG 449 721-2)

Appearing in ten volumes between 1867 and 1901, the sixty-six “lyrical pieces” represent the piano masterpiece of the Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg. These are pages inspired by a total expressive intimacy, diary sheets clearly inspired by the model of works such as Robert Schumann's “Albumblätter” and “Kinderszenen”, one of his main points of reference.

The passionate romanticism of this music never goes beyond the limits of the miniaturistic dimension, managing to sketch with light strokes admirable musical portraits, very short in duration yet rich in poetry, often inspired by the popular music of his land of origin.

The main obstacle for those who play them is the great variety of colors and dynamics required by these aphorisms, which demand an extreme differentiation of the piano touch to highlight the different contrapuntal lines of the writing; furthermore, a supreme lightness of weight is necessary so as not to crush these musical butterflies.

The great Russian pianist Emil Gilels would not seem at first sight to be an ideal candidate for the performance of these pieces,
given the granitic power of his pianism, revealed in unsurpassed performances of the music of Liszt and Tchaikovsky; yet Gilels, grappling with these miniatures, reveals himself as an interpreter with exquisite tonal sensitivity, equipped with an enormous palette of colors at his disposal and a remarkable ability to make use of them.

Each piece in this collection has a different interpretation, always surrounded by different chromatic gradations, carefully following the stylistic evolution continued by Grieg during the years of composition, which led him towards a progressive expansion of the melodic and harmonic possibilities, sometimes affected by the influence of Wagner (in 1876 Grieg went to Bayreuth to listen to the “Ring”), of Liszt and Fauré, but always managing to channel external suggestions
in a fresh and personal language of great immediacy which still makes these little jewels an authentic feast for listeners today.

The tenderness of Arietta, the liquid liveliness of the Scherzo and the melancholy cantabilty of Nostalgia are just some of the interpretative heights that Gilels manages to reach in this historic 1974 recording which contains 20 songs chosen with great care.

Carlo Boccadoro, composer and conductor, was born in Macerata in 1963. He lives and works in Milan. He collaborates with soloists and orchestras in different parts of the world. He is the author of numerous books on musical topics.

This text is taken from “Lunario della musica: A record for every day of the year” published by Einaudi, courtesy of the author and the publisher.