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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 stride [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.

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Copyright © 13 October 2004 Robert Anderson, London UK


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