The Italian word malinconia was very commonly used in the nineteenth century as a title for melancholy pieces. Yet the idea of malinconia covered a myriad of romantic notions, so that simply translating it as "melancholy" does not do it justice. It subsumes many other emotional states as well - all kinds of dejection, gloom, unknown sadness, desperation, depression and even frustration. Each language has evolved its own terms, and interpretations of the word itself also differ from region to region. Malinconia in sunny Italy or Spain is quite different from melancholy in Norway and in Finland, where the winters are harsh and long. The Nordic variant is expressed here in various musical examples; words alone are anyway inadequate.
A string quartet was among the very first works that Edvard Grieg presented after completing his studies in 1861, but the Quartet in G minor, Op. 27, was the only such work to be published in his lifetime. In 1878, while composing it, Grieg wrote that ‘it aims at breadth, to soar, and, above all, at vigorous sound’, and the amplitude of the sound is indeed striking: the generous use of double-stops creates an almost orchestral effect, unusual for the genre. This caused some reviewers to criticize the quartet as being unidiomatic, while others, including Liszt, greeted it with enthusiasm. Some thirty years later, when Jean Sibelius composed his D minor quartet Op. 56, he too had previous experience of writing for the medium, but Op. 56 is the only quartet among his mature works. The often used 'nickname' Voces intimae is often taken to refer to the intimate interchange between the four voices in a quartet, but is probably a more specific allusion to a brief passage in the third movement: Sibelius wrote the remark into a score some time after the work had been published.
Edvard Grieg will always be remembered as the composer of the highly effective Piano Concerto in A minor, and his incidental music to Ibsen's play Peer Gynt. However, it is as a miniaturist that Greig's true genius lies. Grieg was a very capable pianist, and had in fact made his early career as a concert pianist, his songs and solo piano music form the heart of his output. The early piano sonata although interesting shows clearly why the less restricting forms of the miniatures for solo piano suited his genius. The Lyric Pieces and Peasant Dances display his keen ear for traditional folk music, matched probably only by Bartok and Kodaly. The 66 works that comprise the 10 books of Lyric Pieces date from 1867 to 1901, and are extraordinary, exquisitely crafted works that can stand comparison to any of the great sonatas of his contemporaries. This 7 CD set includes the complete Lyric Pieces, the Sonata, The Holberg Suite and the lesser-known piano works of this great composer who captured the very essence of his native Norway in music.
Grainger’s mastery of choral textures shines out of this wide-ranging collection of folk-song arrangements, each highly individual and memorable. Plus his friend Grieg’s finely scored religious settings. Superior performances by Stephen Layton and Polyphony.