Sunday, September 12, 2010

Edvard Grieg - Piano Concerto: Percy Granger, Rolf Gupta, Kristiansand Symfoniorkester (Pure Audio Blu-Ray Disc + SACD)

    Album title
    GRIEG Piano Concerto
    Percy Grainger, piano
    Kristiansand Symfoniorkester
    Rolf Gupta, conductor
    Edvard Grieg, piano
    Øyvind Bjorå, violin
    Rex Lawson, pianolist
    Catalogue #
    EAN13 (Europe)
    UPC-A (USA)

    Disc 1
    Hybrid SACD
    MCH 5.1 DSD
    Stereo DSD
    Disc 2Pure Audio Blu-ray
    DTS HD MA 192kHz/24 bit 5.1
    DTS HD MA 96kHz/24 bit 7.1
    LPCM 192kHz/24 bit STEREO
    Region: ALL - worldwide

    Release date
    August 2009
    Recording date
    February 2009
    Kristiansand Cathedral, Norway
    Original source
    DXD (352.8kHz/24bit)
    The magic of a "time machine" brings Percy Grainger's original performance back to life in this modern surround-sound recording with the Kristiansand Symphony Orchestra conducted by Rolf Gupta. Edvard Grieg himself bears witness to the validity and authenticity of Grainger's interpretation through his own enthusiastic endorsement: "I had to become sixty-four years old to hear Norwegian piano music interpreted so understandingly and brilliantly. He breaks new ground for himself, for me, and for Norway. And then this enchanting, profound, serious, and childlike naturalness! What a joy to gain a young friend with such qualities!"
    In 2007, conductor Rolf Gupta gave the first Norwegian performance of Edvard Grieg's Piano Concerto in A minor with the legendary Australian pianist Percy Grainger (1882-1961) as the posthumous soloist. On this recording, the Kristiansand Symphony Orchestra accompanies Grainger's original and controversial interpretation of the concerto. In addition, the violinist Øyvind Bjorå and pianolist Rex Lawson perform Grieg's Violin Sonata in C minor. The recording also includes a handful of Grieg's Lyric Pieces, performed by the composer himself. Astonishingly, these performances have not been available to the public until now.
    Two different instruments have facilitated Grainger's and Grieg's encounters with the KSO/Gupta in modern times. Grainger plays on a form of musical time machine, the Duo-Art reproducing piano, which is something like an analogue predecessor of the computer, powered by an electric suction pump, and controlled automatically by perforated rolls of paper. Grieg, on the other hand, has been restored to life by means of a foot-pedalled pianola, played by Rex Lawson. For this recording, both instruments were fitted in front of a Steinway concert grand piano and re-performed the playing of Grainger in 1921 and Grieg in 1906.
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    NEWSLETTERS: Release sheet, August 2009
    Further information at 

    SoundStage Editor's Choice: Best Audiophile Releases for 2009 (alternative link)

    DVDFab COPY PURE AUDIO BRD |  ~16GB (32x500MB)
    2.0 LPCM 24/192kHz, 5.1 DTS HDMA 24/192kHz, 7.1 DTS HDMA 24/96kHz

    BRD DEMUX | WV, TRACKS | 2.23GB | PCM 24bit-192kHz
    EAC-RIP | WV, IMG, CUE, LOG | 107MB
    MP3 LAME VBR-245 V0 | 119MB | SCANS COMPLETE | 252MB
    Classical | Label: 2L | Catalog Number: 2l50SABD | RAR 3% Rec.,,

    This is a surprisingly effective disc, which I'm rating highly for the simple reason that I've found it very enjoyable on repeated listening. A piano teacher friend also concurs. However, my high ranking is based on what this disc seeks to achieve, and these goals do not include the best possible presentation of a famous romantic warhorse for a full size symphony orchestra and virtuoso pianist...

    01. Piano Concerto a minor op 16 allegro molto moderato 12:27
    02. Piano Concerto a minor op 16 adagio 05:38
    03. Piano Concerto a minor op 16 allegro molto moderato e marcato 09:53
    04. Wedding Day at Troldhaugen op 65 no 6 05:24
    05. Album Leaf op 28 no 1 01:33
    06. Album Leaf op 28 no 2 02:57
    07. Erotikon op 43 no 5 02:53
    08. To Spring op 43 no 6 02:50
    09. Sonata for Violin and Piano no 3 in c minor op 45 allegro molto 08:38
    10. Sonata for Violin and Piano no 3 in c minor op 45 allegretto 06:34
    11. Sonata for Violin and Piano no 3 in c minor op 45 allegro animato 07:25

    ...According to the explanatory program notes, the music rolls on a Duo-Art
    reproducing piano and a foot-pedaled pianola were fitted in front of a Steinway
    concert grand piano and “reperformed” with the Kristiansand Symphony
    Orchestra. Now, you might wonder how or whether they were able to seamlessly
    integrate Grainger with a newly recorded version of the orchestral
    accompaniment in an ultra high-resolution recording that would surely reveal the
    inconsistencies born out of this technical hocus-pocus... Fanfare Magazine

    Laugh at me if you must (and I won't blame you, honestly), but I dragged my parents to see Song of Norway, the infamously bad biopic about Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg, when I was a very young kid. We were living in a suburb of Seattle then which was pretty much farmland back in those days, and I lived for my school library's weekly delivery of the Sunday New York Times. I would pore over each week's Arts and Leisure section, trying to assimilate all that culture via some sort of osmosis...

    Bonus tracks:

    1. Humoresque, op.6 nr.2 (Edvard Grieg playing) 2:58
    2. Leaf, op.28 nr.3 (Arthur De Greef playing)   2:53
    3. Berceuse, op.38 nr.1 (Edvard Grieg playing)  2:23
    4. Papillon, op.43 nr.1 (Edvard Grieg playing)  1:38
    5. Puck, op.71 (Arthur De Greef playing)        2:05

    Like the performances on the main CD, the bonus tracks for this album all derive from some form of perforated piano roll. The Humoresque and the Berceuse are the two remaining rolls that Grieg recorded for Ludwig Hupfeld in Leipzig in April 1906. He may have recorded more, of course, and the pile of rolls in the evocative photograph of Grieg listening to an unnamed Phonola player in 1907 in Berlin is tantalisingly unclear, but only six rolls were ever issued in Hupfeld's various catalogues. The Album Leaf and Puck are performances recorded by the Belgian pianist, Liszt pupil and long-term friend of Grieg, Artur de Greef, for the Aeolian Company's Duo-Art reproducing piano, the former in London in about 1920, and the latter in New York some ten years later. Grieg's own Duo-Art recording of Papillon (Butterfly) is more unusual, since the Duo-Art was not introduced until March 1914, nearly seven years after Grieg had died. The recording began life in Aeolian's Autograph-Metrostyle series, a non-recorded roll on which a tempo line had been drawn, under Grieg's own supervision, during a visit to Troldhaugen by George Reed of Aeolian in London. Although Aeolian never explained the process by which this tempo-marked roll was converted to Duo-Art, the likelihood is that it was pedalled, on an Aeolian 88-note Pianola attached to the Duo-Art recording piano in New York, by one of the American Duo-Art recording producers, who were in the main expert Pianola players as well.


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