- This superb album of Grieg’s piano music returns to the site with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from start to finish on this fairly quiet Shaded Dog pressing
- These sides are big, full-bodied, clean and clear, with a wonderfully preset piano and plenty of 3-D space around all of the players
- Some old record collectors (like me) say classical recording quality ain’t what it used to be – here’s the proof
- “But Grieg’s Concerto is much more than a vehicle for pianistic virtuosity. It has been described as a “tone poem for piano and orchestra” in which an array of colors and moods unfolds. From the beginning of the first movement’s first theme, the piano and the instruments of the orchestra enter into an almost constant dialogue.”
This Shaded Dog pressing is exceptionally lively and dynamic. The sound is BIG and BOLD enough to fill up your listening room and then some. The piano is clean and clear, and the strings are rich and textured. Artur Rubinstein’s performance of this wonderful work is superb, as is his performance of the shorter coupling works on side two.
Living Stereo MAGIC. This is wonderfully recorded music. It has a very natural orchestral perspective and superb string tone. It also boasts a correctly-sized piano, which is quite unusual for Rubinstein’s recordings.
This vintage Living Stereo pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.
If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.
What the best sides of this wonderful classical pressing have to offer is not hard to hear:
- The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
- The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1962
- Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
- Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
- Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space
No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.
One of the qualities that we don’t talk about on the site nearly enough is the SIZE of the record’s presentation. Some copies of the album just sound small — they don’t extend all the way to the outside edges of the speakers, and they don’t seem to take up all the space from the floor to the ceiling. In addition, the sound can often be recessed, with a lack of presence and immediacy in the center.
Other copies — my notes for these copies often read “BIG and BOLD” — create a huge soundfield, with the music positively jumping out of the speakers. They’re not brighter, they’re not more aggressive, they’re not hyped-up in any way, they’re just bigger and clearer.
And most of the time those very special pressings just plain rock harder. When you hear a copy that does all that, it’s an entirely different listening experience.
What We’re Listening For on Grieg Piano Concerto and Favorite Encores
- Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
- The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
- Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
- Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
- Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
Grieg — Concerto in A Minor, Op. 16
First Movement: Allegro molto moderato
Second Movement: Adagio
Grieg — Concerto in A Minor, Op. 16
Third Movement: Allegro moderato molto e marcato
Schumann — Romance in F Sharp, Op. 33
Villa-Lobos — Polichinelle
Liszt — Valse Oubliee, No. 1
Prokofiev — March (from “The Love for Three Oranges”)
Falla — Ritual Fire Dance (from “El Amor Brujo”)
Grieg Piano Concerto
It’s one of the most memorable opening statements in all of music history. Edvard Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A minor begins with the ominous rumble of a timpani roll and then a sudden, bold proclamation in the solo piano which seems to say, “Here I am.” The music which follows has echoes of the hushed restlessness of Robert Schumann’s Piano Concerto, also in A minor, and the larger-than-life bravura of Franz Liszt, who read through the Concerto in the 26-year-old Grieg’s presence in Rome in 1870 and complimented the composer. That bold opening statement returns in the final bars to remind us of its eternal power and invincibility. But Grieg’s Concerto is much more than a vehicle for pianistic virtuosity. It has been described as a “tone poem for piano and orchestra” in which an array of colors and moods unfolds.
From the beginning of the first movement’s first theme, the piano and the instruments of the orchestra enter into an almost constant dialogue. The second movement opens with a lamenting melody in the strings which culminates in a distant horn call in this moment of poignant nostalgia. When the piano enters after this extended introduction, we find ourselves in a tranquil dreamscape. From the piano, to the horn, to the solo cello, this second movement pulls us into a deeply introspective, yet passionate, drama.
The final movement is a vivacious and fiery Norwegian dance. For me, one of the most incredible aspects of this movement is the way we suddenly turn the corner into the second theme and enter a completely different world- perhaps something similar to the second movement’s dreamscape. The solo flute has that same “bright sunlight on a snowy winter landscape” sound we hear in the first movement of the Peer Gynt Suite. This section closes with the hushed sensuality of this harmonic progression. That beautifully exotic, otherworldly chord at 4:41 seems to flirt with the mixolydian mode. It’s a sound that would be at home in jazz. Set apart in their relative isolation, the Scandinavian composers seem to have heard strange and interesting sounds that others didn’t hear.
– Timothy Judd
The work is among Grieg’s earliest important works, written by the 24-year-old composer in 1868 in Søllerød, Denmark, during one of his visits there to benefit from the climate, which was warmer than that of his native Norway.
Grieg’s concerto is often compared to the Piano Concerto of Robert Schumann — it is in the same key, the opening descending flourish on the piano is similar, and the overall style is considered to be closer to Schumann than any other single composer. Grieg had heard Schumann’s concerto played by Clara Schumann in Leipzig in 1858, and was greatly influenced by Schumann’s style generally, having been taught the piano by Schumann’s friend, Ernst Ferdinand Wenzel. Compact disc recordings often pair the two concertos.
Additionally, Grieg’s work provides evidence of his interest in Norwegian folk music; the opening flourish is based around the motif of a falling minor second (see interval) followed by a falling major third, which is typical of the folk music of Grieg’s native country. This specific motif occurs in other works by Grieg, including the String Quartet. In the last movement of the concerto, similarities to the halling (a Norwegian folk dance) and imitations of the Hardanger fiddle (the Norwegian folk fiddle) have been detected.
The concerto was originally scored for 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets in A and B flat, 2 bassoons, 2 horns in E and E flat, 2 trumpets in C and B flat, 2 trombones, tuba, timpani and strings (violins, violas, cellos and double basses). He later added 2 horns and changed the tuba to a third trombone.