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Reviews: Grieg: Sigurd Jorsalfar, Landkjenning etc. - Ruud

Reviews: 4

Review by Russell June 2, 2004 (3 of 3 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
The engineers at BIS have really upped the ante with this new disc of mostly unknown (and decidedly minor league) works by Grieg. This is, I think, the third volume of BIS's ongoing Grieg cycle with the Bergen Philharmonic under Ole Kristian Ruud. Musically speaking, don't expect inspiration on the level of the composer's venerable Piano Concerto or Peer Gynt (or even works like the Holberg Suite and Symphonic Dances). Most of the music on this disc is pompous (not in the negative sense) and ceremonial in nature, and played--and sung, on those tracks with vocals--with great fervor. It's pleasant enough, though it wears kind of thin after a few listenings. Probably the best known piece here is the "Homage March" from the title work.

But, man oh man, what sound quality this disc has! I have no hesitation in saying that it's the best sounding orchestral disc I've heard in quite some time. It is astounding in its breadth and depth of soundstage, naturalness of timbres, and staggering dynamic range. It's pure DSD, of course, and it's all reproduced with an ease and effortlessness that I rarely, if ever, hear from RBCD and even some SACDs. (I've only listened to the stereo layer, BTW--I don't have MCH capability.) I suspect that track 11, the stirring "Funeral March for Rikard Nordraak" (with terrific thundering timpani and bass drum), will be used as THE demo track to show off the capabilities of SACD. I know I'll be using it that way.

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Review by lenw August 10, 2004 (3 of 6 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
--David Hurwitz of Classic Today-SACD gives this disk his highest ratings 10/10, and writes:

If you've come to the conclusion based on his most popular pieces that Grieg was something of a musical wimp, then you really need to hear this sensational disc. The Funeral March for Rikard Nordraak offers about eight minutes of orchestral Sturm und Drang as intense as anything by Berlioz or Mahler; and as recorded here it sounds like a tone poem of Jon Leifs, with earth-shaking percussion and cataclysmic brass. The melodrama Bergliot also deserves to be better known. Now technically "melodrama" merely means spoken dialog over music, but narrator Gorild Mauseth, who quite appropriately recites the text like a paranoid schizophrenic madwoman who just went off her meds, must be aware of the more popular definition of the term, and she makes this one of Grieg's major achievements and a truly gripping listening experience.

Hakan Hagegard provides an equally impressive contribution to The Mountain Thrall (Den Bergtekne) and Landkjenning (Land Sighting), and he swaggers heroically in the Sigurd Jorsalfar songs that flesh out the more popular suite. Long eclipsed by the popularity of Peer Gynt, this earlier incidental work also reveals Grieg as a composer of ebullience and real backbone, especially when the great Homage March gets a "pedals to the metal" reading such as this. I can't imagine finer interpretations than those offered by conductor Ole Kristian Ruud and a clearly energized Bergen Philharmonic. Sonically this production features demonstration quality both in stereo and SACD multi-channel formats, and it's good to report that (unlike earlier issues in this series) BIS seems to have figured out how to make surround sound recordings that lose nothing in dynamic range or impact. Stunning!

There's not much I can add except to say I must agree with Mr. Hurwitz that much on this disk reminds me of the emotion Mahler's powerful symphonies evoke. The performance and music is mesmerizing and played with bravodo. The sound is first rate with a three dimensional quality. I'm sure this is a disk I'm going to be playing quite often.

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Review by Chris September 26, 2004 (5 of 5 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
Another sonic spectacular from BIS.Just like Chandos, BIS delivers consistently excellent recordings.This disc is so realistically recorded that I find nothing to complain about whatsoever as far as the sound quality is concerned. This is a State of the Art recording that ought to be heard by anyone who wants to get an idea of what a big symphony orchestra sounds like, when recorded without a mike on every instrument.What you'll hear from this SACD, provided you have a reasonably decent reproduction chain,is so natural and realistic an experience that few other recordings, even from the analogue era beat it.The Bergen Philarmonic also play splendidly under conductor Ole Kristian Ruud.
But when I get to the actual music played and recorded here, I am unfortunately, less impressed.Someone else compared this music to Mahler's. Well he must have meant very,very early Mahler then.Or doesn't really know Mahler's music.
Mahler's music is in general much more sublime than this second rate, national-romantic and rather bombastic music.Apart from the dynamic range used, this music has little,that reminds me of Mahler's great symphonic masterpieces.His symphonies and ,Das Lied von der Erde, speak a much more universal musical language, than this superficial fare.
IMO Grieg wrote only two masterpieces,worth comparing with the really great composers, that I know anyway,and they are his Piano Concerto and his Peer Gynt music.
But musical taste is of course a very subjective thing and I'm sure a lot of people will like the music more than I do.
But as demonstration disc I rate it among the very best.

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Review by Luukas May 24, 2015 (3 of 4 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:    
This disc was one of my first SACDs and it is still very good. Ole Kristian Ruud has been successful Grieg interpreter and his approaches has got many acclaimed awards.
Grieg's incidental music for "Sigurd Jorsalfar" was quite unknown for me. Of course we all know the "Three Orchestral Pieces" but the complete music isn't so famous. Anyway, Ruud and his team - Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra - proves that the work is very good in its own way. They found the score's beauty. BIS label's sound quality is terrific - especially on multi-channel. Highly recommend.

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