The timpani roll that signals the beginning of Edvard Grieg’s evergreen Piano Concerto not only has the capacity to be smile-inducing (the André Previn/Morecambe & Wise connection) but also issue a powerful portent of what is to come, which here is a new-minted account of music easy to take for granted and even be contemptuous of. Between them, Javier Perianes and Sakari Oramo, the BBC Symphony Orchestra a sympathetic collaborator, make you believe again in Grieg’s often-adorable score.
Perianes offers no indulgences; rather he plays with affection, relish and a virtuosity that serves the music with freshness, sensitivity and, when required, a commanding rhetoric that is ‘from the inside’ rather than being gratuitously applied. The first-movement cadenza is a fine example of this, vivid yet judicious, and, at its conclusion, the riposte from the orchestra is particularly expressive. So too during the slow movement’s string-led introduction, very tender and poetic, to which Perianes enters with the most delicate of touches, and the finale is as lively, communicative and grand as you could wish for.
The sound-quality is good if not entirely commensurate with the Barbican Hall as directly experienced, for with added resonance and a ‘distancing’ of the orchestra that doesn’t happen in situ, one is aware of post-production tinkering: if you don’t know the place, the recording should be thought okay, save for the occasional ‘shy’ woodwind line that doesn’t come through clearly enough. Fortunately though Perianes is not spot-lit – it would be against his nature. Track 3, ostensibly cueing the finale, is placed wrongly on my copy, halfway through the movement. Applause is removed.
As for the selection of studio-made Lyric Pieces (airy and natural in terms of reproduction), twelve in all – but, sadly, without ‘Wedding Day at Troldhaugen’ – each enjoys Perianes’s discretion and imagination. The slower numbers (the majority) are given with rapt concentration, the ‘Nocturne’ Opus 54/4 is especially haunting and takes the listener into a wondrous dream-world, and where technical ability is needed, such as in ‘March of the Trolls’ (also from Opus 54, the third piece), Perianes can eat up the notes with no bother at all while still making the most descriptive of music. He also conjures an especially graceful ‘Butterfly’ (Opus 43/1). Emil Gilels (Deutsche Grammophon) casts a long shadow in this repertoire, but Perianes is his equal. There is much special listening here.