Tognetti’s Characterful Grieg Music for Strings

Review by: David Hurwitz


Artistic Quality: 10

Sound Quality: 10

There have been more than a few excellent recent releases of Grieg’s music for string orchestra, notably on Naxos, including orchestrations of his String Quartet in G minor. The Quartet took a lot of heat when it first came out on account of its acres of double-stops and consequent “orchestral” sound, and truth is that it makes an absolutely terrific piece for larger ensemble, losing very little in translation. Tognetti’s arrangement really is as good as any, and as you can well imagine he has his crack ensemble playing the piece to a fare-thee-well, with all of the passion and drive that one could possibly ask for.

The Naxos releases divided discs between the quartet arrangements (including Grieg’s incomplete Quartet in F major) and all of the remaining works for string orchestra. Tognetti presents a mixture. His arrangement of Erotikk, from the Lyric Pieces, is charming and effective, and rather more sensual than the keyboard original. The Two Elegiac Melodies are touching, fluid, and less heavy in these performances than when played by larger forces; but the highlight of the disc must be the performance of the Holberg Suite.

Even though it has been done to death, this version stands out for the vivacious charm and witty phrasing of its Praeludium (sound sample attached), and for the rustic brilliance of the concluding Rigaudon. In between, the Gavotte also has a welcome spring to its step, and as with the Elegiac Melodies the two slower movements never bog down in excessive sentiment. Mind you, sentiment in this music, and plenty of it, isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but if you are going to use smaller forces, this is surely the way to do it. Sonically, this is absolutely state of the art: clear, pure, and tactile in the best way. If the coupling appeals, go for it.

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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: None for this coupling

    String Quartet in G minor (arr. Tognetti); Two Elegiac Melodies; Erotikk (arr. Tognetti); Holberg Suite

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