Grieg: Songs / Bodil Arnesen, Erling Ragner Eriksen

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Though Anne Sofie von Otter’s Gramophone Award-winning disc remains the clear choice for a single record devoted to Grieg’s songs, this new one runs it close. Bodil Arnesen is a young lyric soprano with just the right freshness for these open-air songs (as so many of them are) of spring and hope. She is entirely firm, has a healthy glow on the upper notes, shows a nice feeling for nuance, and knows how to make the voice smile. Some limitation is felt in the few darker songs, such as the second of Op. 48, “Dareinst, Gedanke mein”, which von Otter takes at a slower pace, introducing an unearthly pallor into the tone, and providing a more weighty reminder of the link back to Schubert’s Wanderers Nachtlied and forward to Strauss’s Ruhe, meine Seele. Then in the next song, “Lauf der Welt”, von Otter has a style at once bolder and more confiding: she communicates as though to a larger audience and so on a bigger scale, enlarging what one might call the vocal gestures of intimacy to match. Yet for home-listening, especially if you are playing at a good volume, I’m not sure that such large expressiveness isn’t just a little overwhelming: certainly the return, from that, to the soprano’s relatively miniaturist style is no hardship.

The choice of songs is fine, so too the programming, in which the sequence (not chronological) is sensible and satisfying. For a proper conspectus of Grieg’s songs it is necessary to have the Haugtussa cycle, which von Otter includes and Arnesen does not; there is compensation, however, in the charming Bjornson settings (Op. 21), the two songs of Solveig, and others such as The Princess and “With a primrose” which are among the best of all. Erling Eriksen accompanies sympathetically, the balance of voice and piano is well judged and the booklet provides useful and attractive companionship.

-- Gramophone [5/1997]

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: 8553781

  • UPC: 730099478120

  • Label: Naxos

  • Composer: Edvard Grieg

  • Performer: Bodil Arnesen, Erling Ragnar Eriksen