Throughout his composing career, Edvard Grieg stayed mostly clear of large-scale works. In 1868 however, he did write his piano concerto in A minor during a holiday with wife, singer Nina Hagerup, and their young child.
He finished revising his concerto much later, in 1907, and it is this version which has lasted in the concert repertoire.
On Tedd Joselson’s Companionship of Concertos, Grieg’s twenty-five-year-old self has still survived and comes bursting forth in his Concerto’s opening drum roll. With a grand descent of the keys, Grieg opens up the proceedings in true virtuosic style.
Belgian-American pianist Tedd Joselson, who got tempted out of retirement to make this recording with the wonderful Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, takes us on a roller coaster ride of tremendous force, sweetness, grandeur, and nostalgia –with some Norwegian dance thrown in.
Though the work is oft played, Joselson’s play comes across as remarkably fresh, helped by Royal Philharmonic Orchestra’s pristine performance under Arthur Fagen’s baton. The work is unashamedly romantic, Schumann inspired, rather than Wagner, and nostalgic, especially the soulful Adagio.
Sergey Rachmaninov’s Concerto no. 2, which follows on the album, was dedicated to Doctor Nikolai Dahl, who cured Rachmaninov of clinical depression. The score is just as richly rewarding as the Grieg, and I can see why this is probably Rachmaninov’s most popular concerto.
Rachmaninov’s opening, made up of an increasingly intense 8-chord progression, evokes all the drama created around the composer’s illness. It calls to mind a funeral march and Joselson’s play captures all the tightness and tension of Rachmaninov’s writing. The orchestral response is stunning – the beautiful minor chords are gradually washed away in an ocean of overwhelming relief. Beautifully interpreted by the Philharmonia Orchestra.
The second movement, the Adagio sostenuto, is by contrast reflective and calm. Picture a lake with autumnal sun flitting across it. The flute leads with what has become an oft repeated melody in films such as David Lean’s ‘Brief Encounter’. You may also recall Eric Carmen’s 1975 hit song ‘All by myself’ which draws on this very melody in its verse. “When I was young/I never needed anyone/ And making love was just for fun/Those days are gone.” With Carmen’s immortal lyrics, Rachmaninov’s melody takes on darker shades. But maybe not – Rachmaninov must have felt just as isolated.
If you can’t get enough of romantic repertoire, you will love Tedd Joselson’s Companionship of Concertos Signum Classics recorded in the iconic Abbey Road studios.