All of the music of Edvard Grieg comes straight from his romantic Norwegian soul, but it inhabits two worlds. One, the world of the Piano Concerto and the incidental music for Ibsen’s Peer Gynt is the public world of the large compositions – a world of a pragmatic artist who knew he had to make a living as a performing musician and deliver the big works in order to support his family.
The other world of Edvard Grieg is the very private world of his piano works.
It luckily was a world with enormous potential for financial gain, and Grieg was fortunate to live at a moment in Scandinavia where the growing music publishing and piano manufacturing industries were rapidly expanding thanks to a growing demand for music for the home.
When inclement winter weather and limited finances made it difficult or nearly impossible for a growing middle-class family to attend a public concert it was always possible for mother to sit at the piano and accompany the fine amateur baritone whom she had married in one of the easier songs of Edvard Grieg, the sheet music for which she had purchased in a Peters edition at a reasonable price.
And if father could not carry a tune, well then there was always that piano reduction of a Grieg song that she had worked on long and hard to master at the piano she had brought as part of her dowry.
Salon music, these days scoffed at by snobs and critics thrived in both the humbler homes and the mansions of the wealthy Norwegians in Oslo and Bergen and Christiania, and Edvard Grieg became a favored guest in the musical salons of his native land and in those of Copenhagen and Stockholm and Leipzig, side by side with Wagnerian transcriptions by Liszt and ditties by Rossini played by other artists.
But not for an instant should Grieg be labeled a salon figure! He was nothing of the sort but an immensely gifted musical miniaturist and poet with the uncanny ability to get to the very core of a poetic text, as the formidable Norwegian pianist Ingunn Adland so perceptively points out in her insightful liner notes to the CD Songs Without Words.
In eighteen vignettes from opus 41, opus 52 and the early opus 3, “Poetiske tonebilder” Ingunn Adland takes the listener through the grief of Vuggesang, the impassioned declaration of love in Jeg elsker dig, the doleful Modersong, and the joyful, the rapturous, and the reflective.
She does so with impeccable technique, immense musicality, accurate musicianship, and great poetic sensibility.
On a recent visit to Grieg’s Troldhaugen in Bergen we were treated to a recital by Ms. Adland played on the very piano that the composer played when he lived out the rest of his life in the company of his beloved Nina.
It is a memory that we will carry for the rest of our life and that is replicated in this gorgeous CD with spot-on engineering by Arne Wilhelmsen, in the hands and soul of Ingunn Adland, a great pianist and artist.
Rafael de Acha