Grieg Anniversary Concert

Andante con moto for piano trio
Sonata No.1 in F for Violin and Piano, Op.8
Six Songs
Lyric Pieces, Op.54 [selection]
Haugtussa, Op.67
Sonata in A minor for Cello and Piano, Op.36

Philippe Graffin (violin), Raphael Wallfisch (cello), Solveig Kringelborn (soprano) & Gunilla Süssmann (piano)

Reviewed by: Robert Matthew-Walker

Reviewed: 29 November, 2007
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

Raphael WallfischThis concert marked the centenary of Grieg’s death. It was presented by The Grieg Society of Great Britain, supported by Stentor Music of Reigate and the Norwegian Embassy. Cellist Raphael Wallfisch has recently been appointed Patron of the Society in succession to the late Iona Brown; he concluded this well-planned concert with a fine account of Grieg’s Cello Sonata partnered by the gifted young Norwegian pianist Gunilla Süssmann. The Sonata has not quite made its mark in the international repertoire as it should, despite the relative dearth of such works from the Romantic era. It received an exceptional performance.

The programme had begun with these artists having been joined by Philippe Graffin for the single-movement Piano Trio, Andante con moto in C minor, the only movement Grieg completed in 1878 of a projected four-movement work. The music could have been written by no-one else, and left more than a feeling of regret among that the composer did not go on to complete the work, for the performance was remarkably affecting and wholly convincing.

Philippe Graffin. ©Ben EalovegaGraffin and Süssmann followed the Trio with the First Violin Sonata. This early work (1865) is another of those chamber music pieces from the Romantic era which is not as often heard as it might be. Much of the performance was very good indeed, although at times one wished for a rather fuller tone from Graffin, who stood alongside the pianist in the modern manner rather than in the belly of the piano, where eye contact between the players might have proved more beneficial in terms of ensemble. Tempos and a grasp of the work, however, were first-class.

The Norwegian soprano Solveig Kringelborn ended the first half with six varied songs, beginning with the most famous of Grieg’s melodies, “Jeg elsker dig” – variously known as ‘Ich liebe dich’ or ‘I Love Thee’ – dating from the same year as the violin Sonata, and ending with “Lys Nat” (Light Night) from 1900. These were superbly projected and admirably accompanied, making us anticipate eagerly the great “Haugtussa” song-cycle. We were not disappointed – except in that two short songs were omitted (perhaps for considerations of time, for the programme itself did not end until long after 10 o’clock). Throughout, Solveig Kringelborn was exceptional, her beautiful voice consistent throughout the range. Her excellent accompanist had earlier delighted us with four items from the Fifth Book of Lyric Pieces, which were most beautifully characterised. This was a remarkably successful evening all round.

  • Details of The Grieg Society of Great Britain may be obtained from the Chairman: or The Membership Secretary, c/o The Royal Norwegian Embassy, 25 Belgrave Square, London SW1X 8QD

  • Wigmore Hall

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