Grieg: Complete Orchestral Works / Engeset

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Choices, choices! Ole Kristian Ruud’s superb Grieg box on BIS was and remains a reference for this music, and it is just a smidgen more technically polished than these otherwise excellent performances. However, Engeset has a couple of points in his favor that may weigh significantly with collectors who don’t want to lay out the funds for both eight-CD sets (I did, and I don’t regret it). First, Engeset features even more orchestral music than Grieg actually wrote. To be fair, everyone does. The Norwegian Dances, for example, were orchestrated by Hans Sitt, and there are other short works scored by everyone from Anton Seidl to Johan Halvorsen.

Engeset, however, offers two welcome novelties: three of the Slatter orchestrated by Oistein Sommerfeldt, and most interesting of all, the massive Ballade for piano arranged for large orchestra by 20th century Norwegian composer Geirr Tveitt. This massively scored transcription really brings out the music’s tragic power, and it’s very intensely performed by Engeset and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. The other advantage that Engeset has over Ruud is a finer soloist for the piano concerto in Havard Gimse. Noriko Ogawa, on BIS, is perfectly fine as far as she goes, but Gimse goes quite a bit farther in terms of imaginative phrasing and tone color.

Otherwise, the two sets are very equally matched. Both conductors sound equally at home in the music, with versions of the Symphony, Norwegian Dances, Old Norwegian Romance with Variations, and Symphonic Dances that are equally persuasive and equally well performed. The Peer Gynt incidental music comes complete on both sets, and is played, sung, and spoken to the hilt. Vocal soloists (Inger Dam-Jensen in the Six Orchestral Songs) are fully involved and fully comparable. In most of the shorter pieces, direct comparison often reveals timings within a few seconds of each other (Bell Ringing is an exception, with Engeset notably slower than Ruud). What the heck, just get both.

-- David Hurwitz,

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: 8508015

  • UPC: 747313801534

  • Label: Naxos

  • Composer: Edmund Neupert, Edvard Grieg

  • Conductor: Bjarte Engeset

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Malmo Chamber Choir, Malmö Chamber Choir, Malmö Opera Orchestra, Malmö Symphony Orchestra, Royal Scottish National Orchestra

  • Performer: Håvard Gimse, Inger Dam-Jensen, Palle Knudsen