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John McCabe plays Grieg

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Catalogue No: SOMMCD 0154
Release Date: 11/01/2015
Number of Discs: 1
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Grieg: Slåtter (Norwegian Peasant Dances), Op 72; Stimmungen (Moods), Op 73
John McCabe (piano)
Somm SOMMCD 0154 *****

John McCabe was a lifelong admirer of Grieg and particularly smitten with his deeply personal reworkings of Norwegian hardanger-fiddle tunes that were published in 1902 under the title of Slåtter. A pungently characterful, often harmonically bracing 39-minute sequence they comprise, too, and they’re preceded here by Stimmungen (Moods), a set of seven pieces in the mould of the Lyric Pieces that likewise contain much to ignite the imagination (try the thrillingly exuberant outer portions of No 3, ‘Night Ride’). McCabe’s perceptive readings of this uncommonly rewarding repertoire are irresistible in their combination of scrupulous refinement, recreative spark and infectious commitment – what a fine pianist he was! Apparently, the 1978 master-tapes were on their last legs, so plaudits to Martin Nichols and Paul Arden-Taylor for such a superb restoration, the enticing analogue glow of Robert Auger’s admirable original production for RCA left mercifully intact. Somm’s first-class, helpfully detailed presentation is a further bonus. This is a hugely enjoyable reissue, and I recommend it without reservation.
–Andrew Achenbach (Classical Ear, 11 January 2016)

SOMM is pleased to announce that with help from Monica McCabe and Robert Matthew-Walker a second example of John McCabe’s matchless pianism has now been unearthed. The old and partly damaged tapes of Grieg’s Slåtter and Stimmungen  which McCabe recorded with engineer Bob Auger on RCA Gold Seal in 1978, have been lovingly restored by SOMM’s expert engineers, Martin Nichols and Paul Arden-Taylor. The resulting sound has added clarity but the pliable, warm analogue sound many people miss from the old vinyl days is still remarkably present!

Grieg was the first great composer in the late 1880s to travel around Norway collecting folk tunes from the rural population and these proved to be a genuine source of inspiration to him. The hardanger fiddle player Knut Dale had suggested to Grieg that some of the traditional fiddle tunes should be noted down properly to save them for posterity.  By the end of 1902 Grieg had finished his work, which he named Slåtter, Norwegian Peasant Dances. The Slåtter and Stimmungen (Moods) were the two last sets of piano pieces Grieg completed, two years before his death. The latter is essentially an extra book of Lyric Pieces in manner, written in 1905. They represent a delightful kaleidoscope of moods and they sum up many aspects of Grieg’s pianistic art.

For John McCabe, as his original note for these recordings makes clear, Grieg was a far more significant figure than popular appreciation would suggest and these recordings came as quite revelatory in the early 1980s to wider audiences outside of the inner circle of specialists in Norwegian music.

John McCabe’s distinguished career as both composer and pianist established him as one of Britain’s leading classical musicians, with an international reputation in both fields. His set of the complete Haydn Piano Sonatas, recorded in the 1970s, still stands as a landmark. His devotion to music led McCabe to explore and perform the work of composers of many different kinds  – Bax, Grieg, Schubert, Hindemith, Howells, Copland and Schumann are among those whose work he recorded. He was deeply interested in contemporary music also, and performed and promoted with great generosity the work of his fellow composers as well as that of younger composers. He also made outstanding recordings of his own piano music.

John McCabe was appointed CBE for services to British music in 1985, and in 2006 the Incorporated Society of Musicians honoured him with their Distinguished Musician Award. In May 2014 he was the recipient of the British Academy of Songwriters and Authors IVOR Award, while the Iles Medal was awarded to him in September 2014 for services to the brass band movement.

On This Recording

  1. Stimmungen (Moods): No. 1. Resignation
  2. Stimmungen (Moods): No. 2. Scherzo-Impromptu
  3. Stimmungen (Moods): No. 3. Natligt ridt (A Ride at Night)
  4. Stimmungen (Moods): No. 4. Folketone (Folk Tune)
  5. Stimmungen (Moods): No. 5. Studie, “Hommage a Chopin”
  6. Stimmungen (Moods): No. 6. Studenternes serenade (Students’ Serenade)
  7. Stimmungen (Moods): No. 7. Lualat (The Mountaineer’s Song)
  8. Slatter (Norwegian Dances): No. 1. Giboen’s Bridal March
  9. Slatter (Norwegian Dances): No. 2. Jon Vaestafe’s Spring dance
  10. Slatter (Norwegian Dances): No. 3. Bridal March from Telemark
  11. Slatter (Norwegian Dances): No. 4. Halling from the Fairy Hill
  12. Slatter (Norwegian Dances): No. 5. Pillar from the church-play
  13. Slatter (Norwegian Dances): No. 6. Gangar
  14. Slatter (Norwegian Dances): No. 7. RotnamsKnut
  15. Slatter (Norwegian Dances): No. 8. Bridal March
  16. Slatter (Norwegian Dances): No. 9. Niels Rekve’s halling
  17. Slatter (Norwegian Dances): No. 10. Knut Lurasens halling I
  18. Slatter (Norwegian Dances): No. 11. Knut Lurasens halling II
  19. Slatter (Norwegian Dances): No. 12. Springdance after Myllarguten
  20. Slatter (Norwegian Dances): No. 13. Havar Giboen’s Dream at Oterholt bridge
  21. Slatter (Norwegian Dances): No. 14. The Bridal Procession of the Goblins at Voss
  22. Slatter (Norwegian Dances): No. 15. The Bride from Skuldal
  23. Slatter (Norwegian Dances): No. 16. The Girls from Kivledal
  24. Slatter (Norwegian Dances): No. 17. Gangar