Is there a pianist out there who does not own at least some of the 66 short pieces that comprise the Grieg Lyric Pieces? These pieces lie comfortably within the technical abilities of a pianist of an intermediate standard and are charming. However, to play the notes as written is one thing, but to bring the music alive is another—and that is the territory of the professional pianist. These Norwegian mini-dramas need a singing piano tone, clear phrasing and steady forward pulse to hold the compositions together.
To elevate Grieg's tiny masterpieces, we need a craftsman like Stephen Hough. Some of Hough's first recordings were of miniatures and were always polished to perfection. Hough is not only a miniaturist, of course, and his concerto recordings have won many well-deserved awards. However, being able to bring a short two-minute piano piece to life is a rare gift. A good example on this new disc is the 'Wedding day at Troldhaugen', a little showpiece that Hough turns into a concentrated musical poem, beaming with pianistic colouring and rhythm zest. 'To spring' simply cannot be played with more elegance, while the finale 'Remembrances', harking back to the opening 'Arietta', is the ultimate in tenderness. It's refreshing that Hough has selected a Yamaha CFX for his recording. Dare we hope Hough will delight us with another Grieg recital on his next recording?