The LP of yore has recently come back into fashion. Archaelogical expeditions into lofts and box-rooms have paved the way for renewed acquaintances with musical experiences from childhood.
The first recording you ever heard of Grieg’s Piano Concerto may well belong to a collection with irreplaceable musical sentimental value. Impressions hidden deep in our memories are revived when the stylus jumps over a bar or two or catatonically hiccups back and forth. It is a secret well guarded by many that no performance or recording has a more moving effect on us than our first experience. We occasionally have a ‘eureka’ experience, but in general we prefer the confirmation of recall. Has the undergrowth grown over the trampled paths? Have we become unreceptive to new discoveries in familiar territory?
In 2009 I made a controversial recording of this Norwegian musical flagship with Kristiansand Symphony Orchestra and a dead pianist. The Australian pianist Percy Grainger (1882–1661) and Edvard Grieg developed a close friendship between1905 and 1907. The concert tour together in London that they were planning was cancelled when the Norwegian composer died in September 1907. Grieg’s recordings using Welte-Mignon perforated paper technology clearly reveal the focus of his interpretation. The poetic musical images he evokes bear witness to radical changes in the interpretation of musical notation over the past century.
In his journal Grieg writes of Percy Grainger: ‘I had to become 64 years old to hear Norwegian piano music interpreted with such understanding and genius. The way he plays the Peasant Dances and arrangements of folk tunes breaks new ground for himself, for me and for Norway. And then this delightful, profound, serious and childlike naturalness!’ Bearing this in mind, it is vital to see the way Grainger and Grieg played as at least as valid as today’s approach to the music. It is possible that something essential has been ‘lost in translation’. It is difficult to say what will happen this evening, but we take into account the lesson learnt from the encounter with Grieg and Grainger as living performers.
The festival receives government grants from:Arts Council Norway, City of Bergen and Hordaland county.
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