You couldn't ask for a more "authentic" performance of Grieg than one by the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, which Grieg himself conducted at one time. There are silkier performances of Peer Gynt, Op. 23, than this one, but few that seem to have such a sense of Grieg's much-vaunted Norwegian soul. The chilly yet rich blue of Chandos' graphics here sets the mood: conductor Edward Gardner gives the work a kind of elemental Nordic flavor. Sample the sweep of "The Abduction of the Bride," or the famous "In the Hall of the Mountain King," where the creeping theme has unusual tension and weight. The incidental music to Peer Gynt has been in a state of evolution since the discovery of the full score in the 1980s, and other highlights here include the use of a Hardanger fiddle in the opening prelude numbers. The soloists all perform with enthusiasm and directness, and several major Norwegian choirs are on hand, which is remarkable given that they don't have that much to do here. The performance of the Grieg Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 16, by pianist Jean-Efflam Bavouzet is also strong, although it has a less organic quality than the Peer Gynt music. Chandos rises to the occasion with flawlessly idiomatic Grieghalle sound, aided by Norwegian Broadcasting engineer Gunnar Herleif Nilsen. Strongly recommended.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Incidental Music to Peer Gynt, Op. 23|
Act V 21 Peer Gynts hjemfart. Stormfull aften på havet (Peer Gynt’s Homecoming. Stormy Evening on the Sea). Prelude to Act V
|Concerto, Op. 16|