Edvard Grieg

Edvard Grieg

“In Norway, Edvard Grieg is a very big deal,” the internationally acclaimed soprano Lise Davidsen tells Apple Music. “When I was growing up, all my family knew who he was. And so it was very, very special to be able to record this album. Because this is our music, in a way.” Edvard Grieg is, then, perhaps her most personal recording to date, a collection of Grieg songs performed with fellow Norwegian and pianist Leif Ove Andsnes. Music, of course, transcends boundaries, but there is always something magical about a composer returning to their roots. “Like Lise says, we grew up with this music, and I've played Grieg from when I was six years old,” adds Andsnes. Those familiar with Grieg’s solo piano Lyric Pieces will find even more intimacy and drama in the songs here. “Grieg was a wonderful writer himself, and he loved poetry,” explains Andsnes. “It really inspired him, and in something like the song cycle Haugtussa there is an epic quality to some of the songs. It’s as if the music reaches another dimension. I really do think that this is his greatest music.” There was no way this album could have been anywhere other than Norway, so its creators both retreated to a spectacular music venue in the heart of the Norwegian port town of Bodø. There, in four uninterrupted days, they were able to devote themselves to this beautiful collection. “I'm really proud of this album,” says Davidsen. “I think that's because we reached the point where we did what we wanted to do—what we felt was right.” Read on as Davidsen and Andsnes guide us through their enchanting album in-depth. ”Haugtussa (The Mountain Maid)” Lise Davidsen: “I think this song cycle, about a young girl’s love for a boy, represents a lot of the Norwegian spirit, with its immediate contact with nature. This acceptance of something that is bigger than us, not in terms of religion, but in this connection to nature and the idea that we have trolls and all these creatures. I’m not saying we believe in them, but we have accepted that they somehow exist.” Leif Ove Andsnes: “There are many parallels with Schubert’s great song cycle Die schöne Müllerin, which is also about love and loss. That’s particularly true in the final song, ‘Bed Gjætle-Bekken’, where the girl sits by a stream and talks to it about her sadness of losing her love. I think the drama is really important here, but sometimes it doesn’t happen so much in performances. Lise, however, brings it out wonderfully.” ”6 Songs” LOA: “Musically, these two songs are so interesting, but are very different. “No. 4 Med en Vandlilje” has a fluent melodic line and piano accompaniment, while “No. 2, En Svane” is the opposite. It’s very static and the piano just has these chords. But what chords! It’s on a level with the best Schubert songs. It’s only four minutes long, but it’s totally epic.” ”6 Elegiac Songs” LOA: “For me, these songs have very Wagnerian harmonies, and they’re kind of strange. They’re very concentrated, but extremely interesting.” LD: “It’s really important to read the text too, which is quite simple, but it communicates these very big feelings about lost love.” ”Melodies of the Heart” LD: “I can be honest and say that this was the trickiest one to perform, because it’s been done so many times. But it’s such a beautiful song.” LOA: “It sits between simplicity and ecstasy. It’s a very early song, very fresh, very spring-like. It’s all about the big intervals and big breath, and it’s only just over a minute long, too. The piano writing is wonderful; in fact, Grieg made a transcription of it for solo piano.” ”5 Songs, Op. 60: No. 5, Og jeg vil ha mig en Hjertenskjær” LD: “This is just so straightforward in its message: ‘I would like to meet someone. And I would like it to happen this way please!’ Of course, there’s a lot packed into this song, but it’s like a fresh breeze.” LOA: “Yes, it’s straightforward, but right in the middle, Lise stops singing for a line, and the piano just goes off on its own, playing these exulted harmonies. And it doesn't stop!” ”12 Songs, Op. 33: no. 9, Ved Rondane” LD: “For me, one of the reasons why so many of these songs, including this one, are famous is that they’re like a musical stamp on Norway. It’s what foreigners think of Norway: the mountains and the nature, and Grieg describes it all so beautifully in his music.” ”5 Songs Op.69” LD: “These songs have such variety from the first to the last, and they encapsulate so many aspects, such as a birthday letter, a snail and a mother’s grave. So there’s everything here. And there’s everything in the piano writing as well. It is so well written.” LOA: “Grieg encapsulates it all really amazingly. The song about the snail [“No. 4, ‘Snegl, Snegl!’] has this quirkiness about it. And the first one, ‘Der gynger en Båd på Bølge’ is very dramatic. When you first look at this collection, you think, ‘These songs don't belong together, how can they work?’ But it’s one of those things that makes sense simply because of the contrasts. It becomes its own storytelling.” ”9 Songs, Op. 18: No. 5, Poesien” LD: “This song is like someone who has stepped into a church pulpit and said, ‘This is how it’s going to be.’ It’s from a different time, and it’s difficult to bring to 2021 in a natural way. So, I think of myself as delivering the text rather than me personally talking about it. But I do love it, and I love the fact that it’s so different from all the other songs on the album.” LOA: “For me, it’s just a very enthusiastic, ecstatic song with wonderful harmonies and great piano writing. It’s absolutely wonderful.” ”6 Songs, Op.48” LD: “These songs have everything in them, from ‘Gruß’ and ‘Lauf der Welt’ to ‘Zur Rosenzeit’. Grieg has an amazing ability to write all emotions in five or six songs. That, for me, is what makes them so interesting to sing.” LOA: “They’re a real highlight. First, we have the simplicity of ‘Gruß’, and then he switches mood immediately for ‘Dereinst, Gedanke mein’ and we’re in the world of Schubert again. This song has been a favourite of mine for a long time. It has that sort of divine quality of the best Schubert songs. It's universal. It's unbelievable. And then you have the next two songs, which are very playful and improvisatory, and then the last two, which are so dramatic again.” ”12 Songs, Op. 33: No. 2, Våren” LD: “Maybe this song is an invitation to album number two! For me, ‘Våren’ describes Norway. We have seasons there in a very clear way. And våren [spring] is one of them. And this song describes how it returns, and what it means. In some part of the country it means getting your life back after the darkness and getting into a different emotional state.” LOA: “Sometimes in Norway it feels like one could hibernate for a few months and then come back to life. And that's what this song is about. This person gets, once again, the opportunity to experience life and nature, and the spring.”

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