Paavo Järvi gives Grieg's Peer Gynt new glorious life

A magical performance from Peter Mattei, the Estonian National Male Choir and Estonian National Symphony Orchestra makes this one of the definitive recordings of Grieg's most loved work.

Composer: Grieg
Repertoire: Peer Gynt
Artists: Peter Mattei, Camilla Tilling, Charlotte Hellekant, Ellerhein Girls’ Choir, Estonian National Male Choir, Estonian National SO/ Paavo Järvi
Genre: Instrumental
Label: Virgin 545 7222

'I’ve done something about the Hall of the Old Man of Dovre,’ Grieg declared in a letter of 1864, ‘and I literally can’t bear to listen to it, it is so full of cow-turds and Norse-Norsehood!’ Indeed, despite its extraordinary melodic freedom and freshness, Grieg’s incidental music to Ibsen’s play caused him endless problems, not least with the orchestration. Not only that but the two popular suites he later extracted present the music in a completely different order from the full original score, and perhaps most surprisingly of all the unforgettable ‘Morning’ is not set (as one might assume) in the fjords but  in Morocco!

Unless you must have absolutely every single note Grieg intended for Peer Gynt, this new, gloriously played and recorded account from Paavo Järvi (son of Neeme, whose fine complete version of the score on two discs remains available on DG) is a real winner. The magical sounds Järvi coaxes from the strings in ‘Solveig’s Cradle Song’, not to say Charlotte Hellekant’s skin-tinglingly pure singing, mark this out as a very special disc indeed. So too the head of steam Järvi builds up (with choir) in ‘The Hall of the Mountain King’, driving it towards a final shattering climax. Highly recommended.