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Cantatas for Soprano
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Edvard GRIEG (1843 – 1907) Songs
Siri Karoline Thornhill (soprano)
Reinild Mees (piano)
rec. 2016, Andreaskirche Wannsee Berlin
Sung texts with English and German translations enclosed ARS PRODUCTIONARS38545 [62:04]
There is no dearth of good recordings of Grieg’s songs in the catalogue. If we go back to the early years of the gramophone we can find singers like Ernestine Schumann-Heink who set down a couple of his songs in 1913 and 1915, and a number of international stars turned, at least occasionally, to his songs. The Danish tenor Aksel Schiøtz was perhaps the most eloquent – and we must not forget Swedish Jussi Björling, who often featured Grieg songs on his recital programmes. And of course Grieg’s famous compatriot Kirsten Flagstad frequently sang, and recorded, his songs. Flagstad’s recordings are also easily available on CD, both her 78s on EMI (nowadays Warner classics) and the LP-recordings from the 1950s on Decca. There are all-Grieg CDs with Bodil Arnesen (Naxos), Marianne Beate Kielland (LAWO), Katarina Karneus (Hyperion) and Anne Sofie von Otter (DG). Monica Groop recorded the complete songs between 1993 and 2007, the year of the 100th anniversary of Grieg’s death. It is available in a boxed set on BIS. There are other recordings as well, but those mentioned above are all recommendable for newcomers to Grieg’s vocal music. The latest addition to the catalogue is the present disc with Norwegian soprano Siri Karoline Thornhill, who has attracted much attention lately – not least by myself – for several excellent contributions to the ongoing Naxos series with recordings of the music of German-Italian composer Simon Mayr. She has an agreeable, well-schooled lyric soprano voice of great beauty that she employs tastefully and musically impeccably.
Haugtussa is Grieg’s only song cycle, and he considered the eight songs as the best he ever wrote. He set twenty of Arne Garborg’s 70 poems, but discarded twelve of them before publishing his cycle in 1898. The discarded songs are collected under EG 152 in the catalogue of works without opus numbers compiled by Dan Fog and the Edvard Grieg Committee. The poems are written in Nynorsk, and Norwegian nature and folklore are central themes. Siri Karoline Thornhill catches the various moods of the songs very well: the encounter with the young boy, her declaration of love, her happiness when she dances with her goat kids (tr. 6, performed with infectious rhythmic verve), the disappointment when he doesn’t come that rainy day and, finally, when she sings of her sorrow to the brook – a parallel to the final song of Schubert’s Die schöne Müllerin.
The principle of presenting complete groups of opus-numbers instead of picking plums from the whole pudding has its gain: you get to hear songs you rarely hear but you also get some plums.
Of the five songs Op. 26, to texts by John Poulsen, only Med en primula veris (The first primrose) belongs in the plum category, but the others are also attractive, and well worth a listen – especially in so attractive readings as here: the beautiful and folk song like Jeg reiste en deilig Sommerkvaeld, the powerful and energetic Den Ærgjerrige, the inward På Skogstien. The same goes for the five Vilhelm Krog settings that constitute opus 60, fairly late songs, composed just before the Haugtussa songs. I have a particular weakness for the last of them, Og jeg vil ha mig en Hjertenskjaer. Better known is Solveigs Vuggevise (Solveig’s Cradle Song), soft and soothing, from the Peer Gynt-music.
The six songs Op. 48, settings of German poets including Heine and Goethe, are in Scandinavia usually sung in Norwegian in translations by Nordahl Rolfsen, but here they are sung in the original language, which at the time of publication made them popular outside Scandinavia. The atmospheric Dereinst, Gedanke mein, the lively Lauf der Welt, the wonderful Die verschwiegene Nachtigall, to a poem by the medieval Minnesänger Walther von der Vogelweide (c. 1170 – c. 1230) and the best known of them all, Ein Traum, are real gems and they are idiomatically sung here.
Reinild Mees’s accompaniments contribute greatly to the positive impression of this recording. The various discs I mentioned at the beginning of the review are still strong recommendations, but this latest offering can now be confidently added to that illustrious company.
Haugtussa, Op. 67:
1. Det syng [3:03]
2. Veslemøy [2:51]
3. Blåbaer-Li [3:15]
4. Møte [3:41]
5. Elsk [2:26]
6. Killingdans [1:51]
7. Vond Dag [2:08]
8. Ved Gjaetle-Bekken [5:24]
Songs Op. 26:
9. Et Håb [1:57]
10. Jeg reiste en deilig Sommerkvaeld [2:23]
11. Den Ærgjerrige [1:28]
12. Med en primula veris [1:05]
13. På Skogstien [2:29]
Songs Op. 60:
14. Liden Kirsten [3:34]
15. Moderen synger [1:59]
16. Mens jeg venter [2:24]
17. Der skreg en Fugl [1:36]
18. Og jeg vil ha mig en Hjertenskjaer [1:48]
From Peer Gynt, Op. 23:
19. Solveig’s Cradle Song [3:36]
Sechs Lieder Op. 48:
20. Gruß [1:13]
21. Dereinst, Gedanke mein [2:29]
22. Lauf der Welt [1:42]
23. Die verschwiegene Nachtigall [3:19]
24. Zur Rosenzeit [2:06]
25. Ein Traum [2:07]