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But there it was that our native Grieg Society announced choice of the present CD for its
2004 award. Most of the music is hardly current concert fare; but there are many moments that
could happily have featured as a Beecham 'lollipop'. All the pieces were originally written
for keyboard, the first two sets for duet, the last for solo piano. Orchestration was in each
case differently managed. Hans Sitt's version of the Norwegian Dances has stayed the
course, though Grieg would have preferred a Frenchman. Sitt's effectiveness and competence
are clear from the outset
[listen -- track 1, 0:03-1:04].
The freshness of Grieg's inspiration is equally apparent, and he preserves an enchanting
lightness of touch throughout the set. Simple in form, the pieces either start fast and slow
down centrally, or vice-versa. The middle section of the March is delectable and shows
Sitt at his most imaginative
[listen -- track 3, 1:18-2:23].
The Symphonic Dances of 1896-8 comprise the most recent set, and in some ways the
least satisfactory. In an attempt to be 'symphonic' Grieg risks also being ponderous and
repetitive. An occasional paragraph of Edwardian conversation would not come amiss. But the
irresistible composer is never far to seek, as when the finale gets thoroughly into its
[listen -- track 8, 3:59-5:20].
It so happens that Grieg orchestrated these dances himself. If he considered Sitt 'coarse',
Grieg is a trifle demure.
Copyright © 13 October 2004
Robert Anderson, London UK