Grieg - Sonata; Lyrical Pieces;
XXI XXI-CD 2 1604
Claude Debussy once referred to the piano music of Edvard Grieg as “pink bon bons filled with snow.” Today this seems an unkind description, for generations of pianists have delighted in these small gems (myself included), and rightly so – Grieg was a supreme miniaturist, easily capturing a wide range of moods on a small canvas.
This new CD featuring pianist Derek Yaple-Schobert on the XXI label, is a delight, and offers a thoughtfully-chosen program of Grieg’s piano music, ranging from the familiar to the less well-known. A native of Montreal, Yaple-Schobert (who bears an eerie physical resemblance to the young Grieg himself) has long had an affinity with music by Nordic composers, having studied in both Denmark and Sweden. Here, he opens not with one of the small pieces, but with Grieg’s Sonata in E minor, an early work from 1865. The playing is confident and boldly self-assured, as befits the impassioned mood of the music. More lyrical – and certainly more familiar – are Shepherd Boy and Notturno from the Six Lyrical Pieces Op.54 (the entire set is included) which Yaple-Schobert treats with great finesse. By contrast, the March of the Trolls, a quick-paced rustic dance with its ostinato rhythms provides him an opportunity to demonstrate an impressive technique.
One of Grieg’s most familiar and popular pieces, the Holberg Suite has been heard so often in its version for string orchestra that we tend to forget that it originally began as a solo piano piece. In Yaple-Schobert’s capable hands, the neo-Baroque spirit comes through admirably, and from the beginning, he has no trouble in convincing us that this music is as well suited to the solo keyboard as it is to a string orchestra. So I would say gratulerer (congratulations) to Mr. Yaple-Schobert on a fine recording. Bon bons filled with snow? I think not!