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Grieg Anniversary Concert

Wigmore Hall, London, 29 November 2007

Gunilla Süssmann (piano)
Solveig Kringelborn (soprano)
Philippe Graffin (violin)
Raphael Wallfisch (cello)

Andante con moto (unfinished Trio);
Violin Sonata No. 1 in F Op. 8;
Jeg elsker deg Op. 5 No. 3; Med en vandlilie Op. 25 No. 4; Langs ei å Op. 33 No. 5; Moderen synger Op. 60 No. 2; Lys Nat;
Lyric Pieces;
Haugtussa Op. 67;
Cello Sonata in A minor Op. 36

Could Grieg sustain a whole chamber concert? And attract an audience to hear it? The latter proved no problem, with the support of the GB Grieg Society (there seem to be societies for everything, indispensible for filling halls for marginal repertoire - q.v. the Lute Society last weekend).

Well, Grieg provided a fascinating evening, although the instrumental choices did test my patience a little, even though Graffin and Wallfisch did all that could be for them. In the cello sonata, at the end of a very long evening, one was all too conscious of how Grieg stretches his tunes beyond what they can take; even having regard to Robert Matthew-Walker's assessment of it as 'fully cogent and wholly distinctive', I would not want to hear it more often than every few years.

But very different were the songs and piano pieces. From the first entry of pianist Gunilla Süssmann, sculpting an unison melody exquisitely against string chords, one knew she was something special. Süssmann played throughout the long evening, demonstrating in the heady romanticism of the sonatas her virtuosity and collaborative sensitivity on a large scale. A great pianist and chamber music partner, one for whom I would go far to hear her again.

In a selection of Grieg's miniatures, the homely Lyric Pieces, many of them familiar fodder for amateur pianists, Gunilla Süssmann displayed superb sensibility, finding exactly the right tone quality and shading the melodies down to finest pianissimo. The high spot of the concert was, however, an opportunity to hear again Solveig Kringelborn (pictured), remembered from her auspicious 1991 debut in Lutoslawski's Chantefleurs et Chantefables (recommended CD). r

Resplendent in her own language (Grieg's songs are often given in German) Solveig Kringelborn has developed into a mesmerising recitalist, her beautiful tones supported by just enough gesture to convey the deep feelings caught by Grieg in his Arne Garborg settings Haugtussa, a masterwork in the song cycle repertoire, made famous in Flagstad's two recordings.

The concert was being recorded, for what we knew not. Hopefully the songs and some of the Lyric Pieces will find their way onto a CD from Kringelborn and Süssmann?

Peter Grahame Woolf