Artist: Karajan & Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Title Of Album: Grieg: Peer Gynt Suites, Sibelius: Pelléas et Mélisande
Year Of Release: 2015
Label: Deutsche Grammophon
Quality: SACD (*iso) 2.0 + cover
Time: 01:04:24 min
Full Size: 2,6 Gb
Originally DG Deutsche Grammophon 1982, so a redbook master. Karajan was always keen to keep up with the latest tech, so he embraced video & CD. His earlier 70’s recordings are all analogue & therfore generally better than redbook for conversion to DSD. Despite this fact many consider this redbook recording to sound good.
These recordings from 1982 present 3 Scandinavian works, the 2 Peer Gynt Suites by Grieg & Pelléas et Mélisande by Sibelius played by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Herbert von Karajan, 1908-89. Karajan had recorded the Peer Gynt Suites with the same orchestra in 1972. The music evokes impressionistic-surrealist moods associated with literary works by Henrik Ibsen, 1828-1906, & Maurice Maeterlink, 1862-1949.
Grieg wrote incidental music for the 1st performance of Ibsen’s verse-drama in Oslo in 1876 & later organised 8 of the 23 various musical numbers into the 2 concert Suites. The more familiar 1st, op. 46, comprises ‘Morning Mood’, ‘Aase’s Death’, ‘Anitra’s Dance’ & ‘In the Hall of the Mountain King’, the Second, op. 55, contains ‘The Abduction of the Bride’, ‘Arabian Dance’, ‘Peer Gynt’s Return Home’ & ‘Solveig’s Song’.
The musicality of the contrasting movements in the 2 suites is very well presented by Karajan, although perhaps just a tad too measured & impersonal, whilst the performance of the orchestra, including the triangle in ‘Anitra’s Dance’, could hardly be bettered. ‘Morning Mood’ is painted in impressionistic colours & the dynamic range is most evident in the final movement of the 1st Suite, so beloved of school ‘music & movement’ activity. The exoticism of ‘Anitra’s Dance’ & ‘Arabian Dance’ are both sensitively played without the excessive sentimentality that sometimes spoils performances. If Karajan does not quite match Beecham, who recorded the incidental music in 1958 with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, it is because he lacks the sparkle that is the essence of the English conductor’s performance.
In 1905 Sibelius wrote incidental music for Maeterlinck’s play ‘Pelléas et Mélisande’. Originally scored for a small orchestra of no more than 30 players most of the music was retained in the Suite, op. 46, & is here played by Karajan’s lush Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. The opening movement, ‘At the Castle Gate’ is for ever associated with the brooding presence of Patrick Moore’s ‘The Sky at Night’, which used Beecham’s recording as its opening & closing music. However, thereafter, Karajan creates a darkly atmospheric symphonic poem that emphasises its symbolist associations. ‘By the Sea’ has rarely sounded so shadowy whilst ‘Mélisande’s Death’ balances hope & sadness in an utterly convincing manner.
The sound is 1st-class in both the larger scoring of the Sibelius & the more intimate Grieg whilst the transfers retain the overall balance. The illustration on the cover, “Padres Bay” by the American painter & screenprinter Jerome Shurrs, b. 1940, beautifully complements the music.
This is one of Karajan’s most impressive CDs.
Grieg - Peer Gynt Suite No.1, Op.46
01. 1. Morning Mood
02. 2. The Death Of Aase
03. 3. Anitra's Dance
04. 4. In The Hall Of The Mountain King
05. Peer Gynt Suite No.2, Op.55 1. The Abduction (Ingrid's Lament)
06. Peer Gynt Suite No.2, Op.55 2. Arabian Dance
07. Peer Gynt Suite No.2, Op.55 3. Peer Gynt's Return
08. Peer Gynt Suite No.2, Op.55 4. Solveig's Song
Sibelius – Pelleas Et Melisande, op.46
09. 1. At the castle gate
10. 2. Melisande
11. 2a. At the Seashore
12. 3. A Spring in the Park
13. 4. The Three Blind Sisters
14. 5. Pastorale
15. 6. Melisande at the Spinning Wheel
16. 7. Intermezzo
17. 8. The Death of Melisande
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