It makes good sense for the young Russian piano virtuoso Miroslav Kultyshev to follow up his ORFEO recording of Liszt’s ' Études d’exécution transcendante' with Grieg’s A minor Piano Concerto op. 16, a work with which the Norwegian composer took an important first step on the musical stage of his time. Writers are fond of recalling how in 1869, when he was in Rome on a scholarship, Grieg showed the piece to Liszt, who immediately sight-read it and expressed his enthusiasm for the young composer’s abilities and ideas. By this date the work had in fact already enjoyed its triumphant world première in Copenhagen, and since then it has been a permanent presence in the world’s great concert halls.
With his eloquent playing, Miroslav Kultyshev brings out Grieg’s debt to Robert Schumann, notably in the chordal descent of the opening bars in the piano part and the cantabile development of the musical argument. But he also highlights the elements of Norwegian folk music that are so typical of Grieg, especially in the final movement. Miroslav Kultyshev is sympathetically partnered by the North German Radio Philharmonic under its Norwegian principal conductor, Eivind Gullberg Jensen. Together, they continue their voyage of exploration of Grieg’s orchestral output in the form of his 'Lyric Suite' op. 54, four splendid atmospheric portraits extending from the pastoral 'Shepherd Boy' to the grotesque 'March of the Dwarves'. This is the other side of the coin of late Romanticism with its chiaroscuro contrasts that we find not least in Grieg’s incidental music to 'Peer Gynt'. Three of Grieg’s 'Norwegian Dances' op. 35 were played during a production of this Norwegian national drama that took place during the composer’s lifetime, and it is these that round off ORFEO’s all-Grieg programme.
Eivind Gullberg Jensen has been making a name for himself, in London at theENO [2009 Jenufa]; at the Norwegian Opera and recently making his debuts with the Vienna Symphony and Berlin Philharmonic Orchestras. He has studied with the great Jorma Panula, Leopold Hager, David Zinman and Kurt Masur. Definitely one to watch.
“Jensen likes rhythm and popular melody and is not afraid of being romantically expressive to bring out these aspects of a work...The Norwegian Dances, an unmatchably sad, wistful set of miniatures, are beautifully captured here with no punches pulled in their darker - or more modern harmonic corners...Overall, this is a serious, dark reading, more Liszt than Schumann, a good companion to the conductor's work in the purely orchestral suites.”
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