Grieg's Music for Peer Gynt, like any number of other well-loved works, has so suffered from its popularity that it virtually never appears anymore on programs of "serious" concerts. Together with similarly attractive compositions by Bizet, Borodin, Chabrier, Saint-Saens and the strauss family, the two Peer Gynt suites are consigned to pop concerts, one-rehearsal summer programs-and to recordings, a more sensible medium, one might say, in that the listings in the record catalogue do reflect in large part what people like to hear.
On records Peer Gynt is in no more danger of being neglected than Tchailkovsky's Nutcracker Suite, another gem banished to the pops because it was too lovable. In many recordings the Tchaikovsky suite has given way to amore comprehensive assortment of excerpts from the ballet than the eight-part sequence selected by the composer (including, of course, presentations of the entire score), and the Peer Gynt suites have been similarly augmented in many notable releases. The newest of these, in which trhe American-born Swedish conductor Herbert Blomstedt presides over the Dresden State Orchestra and the Leipzig Radio Chorus, with Taru Valjakka, soprano, and Edith Thallaug, mezzo (Angle S-37535), is perhaps the most natable of all.
Blomstedt conducts all 12 of the numbers from Grieg's score for the Lbsen drama which are suitable for concert use: these are, in addition to the eight items in the two suites, the Preclude, the Norwegian Bridal Procession (Grieg's piano piece, orchestral by Halvorsen for use in the play), the Dance of the Mountain King's Daughter, and the second of Solveig's two songs. Both of the songs and the two choral numbers are sung in Norweigan, which adds, certainly, to the overall atmosphere of this loving and expert performance. (Sir John Barbiroll offers the same 12 numbers on Angel S-36531, but the performance is less persuasive and the vocal numbers are sung in Germab-as they are in Sir Thomas Beecham's far more evocative but less complete presentation on Angel S-35445. The only other current recording offering any portion in Norwegian is the recent one by Ormandy on RCA ARL-2613, a gorgeous performance, with Judith Blegen especially touching in Solveig's first song, but regretably limited to the two suites.)
More Grieg, similarly popular, comes from RCA, which has released a performance of the Piano Concerto in A minor in which Percy Grainger's 1921 piano roll is accompanied by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, recorded last year under the direstion of John Hopkins (ARL1-3059). This is the same sort of thing, of couse, that Columbia did a few years back in combining Gershwin's piano rolls of the Rhapsody in blue with a new orchestral perfomance under Michael. Tilson Thomas (M 34205). In both cases the respective pianists had filled in the orchestral part as well as their own, and this had to be edited out of the rolls.
Grainger was especially noted for his interpretation of the Grieg Concerto, which he discussed with the composer and performed for him; hundreds of pianists in the last secen decades have learned the work in Grainger's famous edition. These factors make this record an interesting document, but it is not your basic Grieg Concerto: for that we will remain with Solomon, Radu Lupu or Dinu Lipattim each of whom had the advantage of the live Give-and-take with a conductor that makes for a real concerto performance.
That sort of give-and-take does take place on the other side of the new RCA disc, which, at long last, restores Lepold Stokowski's more than ingratiating performances of seven of Grainger's own adorable miniatures, leading off with Handel in the strand , with Grainger at the piano. The other six pieces are the Irish Tune from County Derry (the so-called "Londonderry Air"), Country Gardens, Shepherd's Hey, Mock Morris, Molly on the Shore and Early One Morning. The sound of these 1950 recordings does show its age, but this is the side that would justify the acquisition for me. CAPTION: Picture, Grieg with his wife, Nina Hagerup