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How, you wonder, would Grieg feel about the fact that many of us associate this particular piece of music with Morecambe and Wise?
Eric’s version of the piece, conducted by André ‘Andrew Preview’ Previn, is one of the most memorable TV sketches of all time, frequently coming towards the top of those seemingly endless countdowns to find the nation’s favourite funny moment.
The concerto itself was no laughing matter for Grieg, though. Instead, it was a pretty weighty, serious affair. At the age of twenty-five, the young Norwegian composer was determined to make his mark on the world with this, his first work to employ an orchestra. From the thunderous roll of the timpani in the opening bars, Grieg sounds totally assured and in command of his orchestral writing throughout this concerto – and yet, he was far from experienced in composing for such large forces.
The work was an instant success and many expected Grieg to replicate it soon after with a second concerto for the instrument. Intriguingly, though, he never chose to write another. The driving, anthemic outer movements, sandwiched either side of the most beautiful Adagio, combine to create a stunning work that’s hard to beat – a fact the composer was arguably shrewd enough to realise.
Leif Ove Andsnes (piano); Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra; Mariss Jansons (conductor). EMI Classics: 0946 3943992.
Illustration: Mark Millington