D. A Wend | Buffalo Grove, IL USA | 01/24/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Edvard Grieg's music for Peer Gynt was written for a stage presentation of Ibsen's verse-drama in 1876. He later organized the 23 various musical numbers into the two familiar suites. The Peer Gynt music has become deservedly famous. The opening movement of the first suite - Morning Mood - beautifully conjures up Scandinavian morning followed music for the death of Peer's mother Aase effectively scored for muted strings. Anita's charming dance transports the listener to Africa where Peer dallies with the daughter of a Bedouin chief (of the title) and the first suite concludes with the marvelous In the Hall of the Mountain King, that describes Peer's escape from the mountain trolls.
The second suite begins with Peer's abduction of a bride from a wedding feast, whom he rather quickly disgards. The music portrays the action and sorrow of the bride beautifully. This is followed by the well-known Arabian Dance and Peer Gynt's Return Home, a rousing short piece of music descriptive of the dangers of his journey. The suite concludes with Solvejg's Song, an orchestral version of a song sung by the woman waiting for his return. The song is sweet and melancholy, which also brings to mind Penelope waiting for Odysseus.
Jean Sibelius' suite for Pelleas and Melisande from 1905 beautifully describes the action of Maeterlinck's play. The splendid beginning of the suite - At the Castle - for strings is stirring music indeed. The suite captures the mood of the play and perhaps the most touching number if the final one - The Death of Melisande - which is sad but without despair or anguish. The suite is nicely played by the Berlin Philharmonic and Herbert von Karajan provides sensitive direction. The sound is beautifully balanced and the art work on the cover is noteworthy for Nordic scene.